The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is vested with the responsibility of conducting routine worksite inspections, as well as investigating a worksite after an accident occurs that causes injury or death. OSHA’s goal in both routine inspections and post-accident investigations is to determine if all safety rules and regulations have been followed. If rules were broken, OSHA can fine the employer who is not living up to his duties to keep workers safe.
OSHA is entirely separate from New York workers’ compensation law. Regardless of whether OSHA finds any violations or not, an employee who was hurt (or the family of an employee who was killed) can talk with New York City injury attorneys for help making a workers’ comp claim for benefits. Still while OSHA violations may not impact a workers’ comp case, a violation can impact an employer in major ways because OSHA can cite and fine a company who fails to follow safety rules.
OSHA fines increased on January 13, 2017, so companies will now face bigger potential penalties for safety rule violations. The increase is not as substantial as the one that occurred last year.
OSHA fines rose by 1.64 percent starting January 13, which the increase in fines equal to the annual rate of inflation in the United States, as was calculated in October of 2016. The reason for this 1.64 percent increase was a ruled passed by the U.S. Congress in a budget bill that allowed fines to increase for the first time since 1990.
Since fines had not increased for such a long time, the rise in fines that happened in August 2016 as a result of the budget bill was dramatic. Fines went up 78% in August of 2016 to make up for the fact that there were no increases in fines for almost 20 years. To make sure such a long delay did not occur again, the budget bill also made it easier for fines to increase. A provision in the bill allowed OSHA to, at its discretion, increase the fines based on the amount of annual inflation.
With the inflationary increase, the new maximum fine for a repeat and willful violation is up to $126,749 from $124,709. The new maximum fine for a serious and other-than-serious violation is $12,675, up from $12,471. The new maximum fine for a willful violation is $9,054, up from $8,908.
Although this may still seem like a pretty small amount of money for many of the different kinds of violations, the fines can add up substantially if a company is found to have multiple serious violations. OSHA has already imposed large fines in significant enforcement cases since the start of the 2017 fiscal year and some of the cases involve penalties exceeding $500,000.
Although these high fines can often act as an effective deterrent, many worksites continue to cut corners on safety. Even if a worksite is safe, however, employees injured on-the-job should talk with New York City injury attorneys at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff as soon as possible after an accident because an employee does not have to prove an OSHA violation to get workers’ comp benefits for an injury caused by job duties.