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2016 OSHA Fine Increases

Updated July 2016

For the first time in over 25 years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is increasing monetary penalties for standards violations — in a big way. How much are fines increasing, and what could this mean for your business?

Initial OSHA Fine Increase

The initial increase in 2016 accounts for the previous 25 years of non-adjustment, as the Act gave OSHA discretion to increase the penalties less than the maximum amount if the increase would negatively affect the economy or if the full increase would result in social costs that outweighed the benefits. Experts predicted that this increase could mean up to an 80% increase in penalties.

After publishing the plan for the first inflation adjustment, we now know that the increases represent a 78.2% increase in maximum fines.

2016 Maximum Penalties

Violation TypeOld Maximum PenaltyNew Maximum Penalty
Serious Violations$7,000 per violation$12,471 per violation
Other-Than-Serious Violation$7,000 per violation$12,471 per violation
Posting Requirements Violations$7,000 per violation$12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate$7,000 per day beyond the abatement date$12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful Violation$70,000 per violation$124,709 per violation
Repeated Violation$70,000 per violation$124,709 per violation

These adjustments will become effective August 1, 2016.

Future Increases

In addition to the catch-up adjustment this year, the bill allows OSHA to continue raising fines annually to keep pace with inflation. While most statute violation penalties have been inflated every four years, OSHA and a few other federal agencies were previously exempted from raising their fines under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. Moving forward, businesses can expect to see these annual increases by no later than January 15 of each year. The goal of this new change is to keep the fines up-to-date as a relevant penalty.

What This Means For Businesses

For many businesses, the small OSHA fines of the past were simply a cost of doing business; compared to other costs and risks, companies simply did not see the penalties as financial deterrents. 2016's increased fees could have a significant impact on smaller businesses or businesses who have previously found it unimportant to implement a safety program. Safety experts hope that businesses will make worker safety and OSHA enforcement a priority. Others believe that the penalties are already high enough and that increases will not add any extra deterrence to safety violations.

Whatever your thoughts on the outcome of the penalties, one thing is clear: they are coming, and they can be scary. Now is a great time for businesses to review their safety programs, update worker training and implement procedure updates to ensure standard enforcement.

Here are some ideas for how to prepare yourself for these fine increases:

  • Top OSHA Citations — Do your workers experience any of the hazards associated with these top violations? Addressing these top citation areas can be a good first step in re-evaluating your safety program.
  • Outreach Training — Do all of your workers carry a 10-hour card (and your supervisors and managers a 30-hour card)? OSHA-Authorized Outreach training can be a great baseline to ensure workers have basic safety training topics covered.
  • Compliance Training — Are there topics and hazards you know are especially risky for your workers? Make sure to train (and re-train annually!) on these topics. Our certificate training courses, which result in an official Certificate of Completion, can be a great option to complete annual or biennial training efficiently and on a budget.

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