Effective August 1st (2016), companies with more than 250 employees can expect increased scrutiny and fines under OSHA's new enforcement and penalty policies. Area directors from OSHA can offer companies with fewer than 250 employees a fine reduction of 20%.
Under the new guidelines, fines for incidents increased by 80% to a maximum of $124,709 per citation. If multiple employees are involved - and the violation is deemed egregious by OSHA - the offending company can be cited for each employee at the full $124,709 per citation. The penalty for willful and/or repeat violations is now set at $12,470, and the timeframe for classifying a violation as willful or repeat was expanded by two years, from a 3-year period to 5 years.
OSHA inspectors are also working under new directives, including a quota-like requirement for inspections and a points system for rating violations. Under the new scoring system the occurrence of violations rated as egregious is expected to increase.
According to a recent webinar hosted by BLR given by attorney Adele Abrams, there are several things employers need to determine to be prepared for an OSHA inspection:
- 'Whether a warrant should be required
- An employer response team;
- A records release policy;
- Employee interview policy;
- Abatement policy; and,
- Any “confidential” or “top secret” areas or processes that need to be identified.'
Of course, the most critical steps companies can take to mitigate risk are regular inspections and maintaining detailed inspection reporting. Not only will it help companies identify potential issues before an incident, but thorough, detailed reports and records demonstrate due diligence and proof of compliance. By engaging with BuildingReports, companies will have detailed records to provide proof of compliance, including code references and a verifiable history of addressing discrepancies.
Violations can carry significant civil and criminal penalties, with criminal penalties being even more frequent if a company is located in one of the 22 state plan states where the attorney general typically has more prosecution tools at their disposal. Proper documentation and detailed records can help avoid both.