News / Failing to Comply Will Cost You, Now More Than Ever

Failing to Comply Will Cost You, Now More Than Ever

A recent bill will allow OSHA to increase fines for the first time since 1990.

By Gary Thill

Remodelers take cover: A 2016 “bombshell” is likely coming from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is expected to increase fines more than 80%.

Thank Congress for the “catch-up” increase—OSHA’s first since 1990—that quietly got tucked into a bipartisan budget act in November. The law allows all federal agencies with civil penalties to update fines for inflation. OSHA can increase fines up to 82% and has until August 1 to do so, says Duane Musser, vice president of government relations for the National Roofing Contractors Association.

If OSHA decides to increase its fines as much as allowed, then the current fine for “serious” violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,740, and the maximum for death or repeat offenders will rise from $70,000 to as much as $127,400. Musser considers the increase an almost a foregone conclusion. And based on testimony from OSHA assistant secretary David Michaels, that seems accurate.

“The most serious obstacle to effective OSHA enforcement of the law is the very low level of civil penalties allowed,” he testified. As an example, he compared the $1 million penalty for tampering with water systems that the Environmental Protection Agency can charge to the $70,000 penalty for willful death that OSHA can levy. “OSHA’s penalties are not strong enough to provide adequate incentives,” he concluded.

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