LEGAL UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Labor announces interim final rules that will increase OSHA’s maximum civil penalties by 78%

By: Daivy P. Dambreville, Esq.

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced two interim final rules to adjust civil penalty amounts, which include penalties assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Under the first interim final rule, OSHA’s maximum penalties will increase by 78% with the maximum penalty for serious violations raised from $7,000 to $12,471, and the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations raised from $70,000 to $124,709.

For years, OSHA has attempted to persuade Congress to increase the penalties that the agency can impose, noting that the low level of civil penalties posed the greatest obstacle to effective OSHA enforcement. In an official news release issued by OSHA, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated, “Civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide.”

Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor is directed to publish interim final rules by July 1, 2016. The department will accept public comments for 45 days to inform the publication of any final rule. These rules do not automatically apply to states regulated by State Plans; however, since State Plans must be at least as effective as OSHA, states are also likely to increase civil penalties.

For more information on how these changes may affect your business, contact any member of the Burns White Occupational Safety and Health team.

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