OSHA Penalty Increases About to Take Effect

Money in the hands of the people

Near the end of 2015, the Department of Labor announced that OSHA would be making  numerous changes to its enforcement and policies for the year 2016 and beyond. Included amongst these changes is a dramatic increase in its monetary penalties for violations. OSHA’s penalties had previously remained unchanged since 1990. Pursuant to the federal budget signed into law on November 2, 2015, however, OSHA was authorized to increase its penalties by 78 percent. Additionally, OSHA will now continue to adjust its penalties for inflation on a yearly basis based upon the Consumer Price Index. These penalty increases are slated to take effect starting on August 1, 2016. After this date, any citations issued by OSHA will be governed by the new penalty structure, so long as the violation occurred after November 2, ...
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OSHA Enforcement Heats Up

iStock_000060649530_Medium OSHA officials have been busy as the weather heats up and spring turned to summer. On May 20, 2016, OSHA cited BC Stucco and Stone, a construction company in Darby, Pennsylvania, for one serious violation and three willful violations. The investigation dated back to November 25, 2015 when an OSHA compliance officer observed an employee working eighteen feet above ground on a scaffold without fall protection. The proposed penalties are $93,000. BS Stucco had also been previously cited on May 2, 2016 at their Philadelphia location. On May 31, 2016, OSHA issued citations to Evergreen Nursery in Statham, Georgia for eighteen serious safety violations. OSHA stated Evergreen exposed workers to electrical hazards, did not provide proper protective equipment, did not have a hazards communication program, and exposed workers to unguarded ...
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OSHA Adds Chapter on Fall Protection to its Technical Manual

466775177 The OSHA Technical Manual (OTM) provides information about workplace hazards and controls to OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers. The OTM is based upon currently available research, publications, OSHA Standards, and consensus standards. OSHA is adding a new chapter on fall protection to its OTM. Chapter 4, entitled “Fall Protection in Construction,” provides technical information about fall hazards and protection methods. The information is intended to help prepare OSHA compliance officers to conduct inspections and investigations. A review of Chapter 4 indicates that OSHA addresses fall hazards in two principal ways. First, OSHA stresses preventing workers from falling by using engineering controls (e.g., guardrails, hole covers, and warnings) or restraint systems. Second, Chapter 4 discusses preventing injury during and after a fall by using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) or ...
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OSHA’s New Reporting Rule Dabbles With Behavioral Economics to Incentivize Workplace Safety

495672652 The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a new rule that applies behavioral economics to incentivize workplace safety. The new rule requires electronic submission of workplace injury and illness reports in order to better inform workers, employers and the general public about workplace hazards. OSHA representatives remark that such a policy can be analogized to restaurant grading based on sanitation whereby restaurants must comply with kitchen cleanliness guidelines or suffer public disclosure of violations. Similarly, employers must make workplace safety a priority or face disclosure of workplace injuries and illnesses reported on the soon-to-be publicly-available OSHA database. Policy-wise, OSHA opines that the public and electronic availability of this data will invoke behavioral economics to achieve change. That is, the rule will enable potential employees to identify ...
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A Whistleblower on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program

Darrell Whitman is a former attorney and professor who became an Office of Whistleblower Protection Programs (OWPP) investigator in 2010. Whitman was a GS-12 Regional Investigator for OWPP, the U.S. Department of Labor, and OSHA. In 2011, Whitman and several other investigators began challenging abuses of power in OWPP’s Region 9 offices in San Francisco. They began voicing their concerns through internal union grievance procedures, and then began raising concerns to the OWPP Director and then Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. The group accused officials including Regional Supervisory Investigator Joshua Paul of various allegations of misconduct. As they continued to air their grievances, the group alleges to have become targets of personal attacks. Ultimately, Whitman was terminated on May 5, 2015, and four of the five original whistleblowers have been ...
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OSHA Announces Sweeping Changes in Final Rule on Silica

iStock_000087387009_Large The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. This is the first time OSHA has updated this rule since 1971. In updating the rule, OSHA has lowered the permissible exposure limit (PEL), as well as included requirements for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping. OSHA presents the rule as two standards, one for general industry and maritime and the other for construction. Both standards are scheduled to go into effect on June 23, 2016. Industries will then have one to five years to meet most requirements. A known human carcinogen, crystalline silica exists in sand, stone, soil, concrete and other materials. Workers exposed to silica inhale particles that cause diseases such ...
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Stepped-Up DOJ Enforcement Signals Intent to Increase Criminal Prosecution of Workplace Safety Violations

Companies who have in the past considered OSHA penalties as a mere cost of doing business and not a significant deterrent should rethink their position and revamp their compliance programs based on recent steps taken by the Department of Justice (DOJ) which heighten the risk of non-compliance. The potential for criminal enforcement of workplace safety violations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act has, in the past, not carried much of a deterrent effect because OSHA violations are classified as misdemeanors and were not frequently prosecuted.  Violations of federal environmental statutes, however, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, can include felonies, prison sentences, and multimillion dollar penalties.  The DOJ has signaled its intent to more aggressively pursue criminal enforcement of ...
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OSHA Report Analyzes First Year of New Reporting Requirements

Claim form In late 2014, many employers learned about the new OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements that were to go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2015. Under the new requirements, employers were required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident. (Under the old rule, employers had the same reporting requirement for fatalities, but were only required to report in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees.) With the reporting requirements broadened to include all in-patient hospitalizations, it was naturally expected that more work-related injuries would be reported during 2015, the first year of the new rule. In a report released today by OSHA, entitled “Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An ...
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Looking Beyond OSHA for Fall Safety Resources

shutterstock_168191825 As OSHA gears up for its yearly National Safety Stand Down to prevent falls in the construction industry, one can expect there to be an increase in available fall related information and resources. With each year’s initiative, OSHA provides substantial guidance for both employers and employees regarding safe practices and fall prevention. While one of the best places to find information on fall safety and OSHA compliance is through OSHA itself, there are many other resources that are just as accessible and may be of some utility. One such resource is through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH’s guidance on preventing fall injuries provides important data and training information. One of the most useful items is the free ladder safety app ...
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Employers Must Post Summaries of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses

iStock_000053899524_Large Employers are required to post a copy of OSHA’s Form 300A between February 1, 2016 and April 30, 2016. This form summarizes the job-related injuries and illnesses employees experienced during 2015. The summary must be posted in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted each year. Information contained on the summary includes the total number of deaths, injuries, poisonings, respiratory conditions, skin disorders, instances of hearing loss, and other illnesses experienced by the employees. Notably, businesses with ten or fewer employees and those in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping and posting requirements. As of January 1, 2015, certain previously exempt industries must now post a copy of OSHA’s Form 300A. Lists of both exempt and newly covered industries are available on OSHA’s website. Among ...
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