SAFETY SOLUTIONS: OSHA Increases Their Penalties Towards Employers
Do you have unsafe machines on your site? It is
2016 and I cannot walk into any factory or place
of employment where they have a maintenance
facility or manufacturing machines and not find a bunch of
unsafe machines and employers are making the employees
run these machines. Does the management truly care
about their employees and their families? I would have to
say I do not think so. Recently, I terminated my services
with an employer for this reason alone. The employer stated
to me that it was cheaper to take the OSHA’s citation
and argue it then to guard the machine. The cost for me
to guard his machine would have been $350.00. This
employer worked in the plastics industry.
I have been writing for this magazine for a number of
years offering help in answering your questions on safety
or machine guarding or offering a substantial discount of
our services for conducting surveys for our readers. To
date very few have utilized my services.
OSHA has stepped up their efforts to increase inspections
for unguarded machinery. OSHA produces an annual
list of the “Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards”
and year after year, machine guarding holds onto the
number 10 spot. The phrase machine guarding is an
umbrella term used to encompass all safe operating practices
as well as maintenance procedures involved with
industrial machinery. Machine guarding is an issue that
affects a wide variety of workplaces and with some
18,000 injuries and over 800 deaths occurring annually,
no wonder it’s on OSHA’s radar. Many industrial machines
have roughly the same basic components, but their safeguarding
needs widely differ depending on the physical
characteristics and operator involvement. This leaves a lot
of room for things to fall through the cracks and get
missed. To cover such a wide variety of machinery, subpart
O of OSHA’s 1910 Safety Regulations covers everything
from table saws to multi-ton metal presses.
On June 30, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor
announced the implementation of two interim final rules
that will increase penalties under various federal statutes,
including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”).
The interim rules were passed in compliance with the
Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, enacted
by Congress in 2015. The 2015 law directed agencies,
such as OSHA, to adjust their penalties for inflation each
year using a much more straightforward method than previously
available. The law also required agencies to publish
“catch up” rules this summer to make up for lost time
since the last adjustments. Agencies were directed to publish
interim final rules by July 1, 2016.
The stated purpose of the penalty increase is to maintain
the deterrent effect of such penalties. “Civil penalties
should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far
and wide,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
of the upcoming increases. “Adjusting our penalties to
keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant
benefits for workers and can level the playing field [for]
responsible employers who should not have to compete
with those who don’t follow the law.”
OSHA prescribes minimum and maximum monetary
penalties for certain types of offenses. “Serious” violations
occur when an employer knows or should know about a
violative condition, policy or practice that is substantially
likely to cause death or serious injury in the event of an
accident, while “Other-than-Serious” violations are violations
of OSHA rules that usually would not cause death or
serious injury but that are related nevertheless to job
safety or employee health.
Under the interim rules, these maximum penalties will
rise significantly - by 78%. These maximum penalties,
which have not been increased since 1990, will increase
- The maximum penalty for “Serious” violations will rise
from $7,000 to $12,471.
- The maximum penalty for “Other-than-Serious” violations,
posting requirement violations, and failures to
abate will also rise from $7,000 to $12,471.
- The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations
will rise from $ $70,000 to $124,709.
The new civil penalty amounts apply only to civil penalties
assessed after Aug. 1, 2016, whose associated violations
occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.
Certain industries, such as the construction industry, may
be especially affected by the penalty increase. Out of 4,386
worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2014,
899 fatalities, or 20.5%, were in construction. More than
half of worker deaths on construction sites were caused by
the so-called “Fatal Four”: falls, electrocution, strikes by
objects, and being caught in or between objects. See OSHA
Commonly Used Statistics, available at www.osha.gov/oshstats/
commonstats.html. Therefore, employers can expect
penalty amounts to be high for violations that cause or are
likely to cause these types of injuries.
So if you have questions about safety or machine safety,
please feel free to contact me.
- Occupational Safety & Health Association –
- National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health -
- Canadian Center for Occupational Health & Safety -
- National Safety Council - www.nsc.org
- American Society of Safety Engineers - www.asse.org
- Podojil & Associates (www.podojilconsulting.com) also
has free safety topics, training materials, monthly toolbox
talks, safety checklists and PowerPoint programs
that you can download free.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.