Labor Dept. hikes penalty amounts for OSHA and MSHA violations

Updated Jul 7, 2016

OSHA inspectorIn November 2015, Congress enacted the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act to adjust civil monetary penalties for inflation and maintain their deterrent effect. EHS Today reports that the law directs federal agencies to adjust penalties for inflation each year, and requires agencies to publish “catch up” rules this summer to make up for lost time since the last adjustments.

The new method will adjust penalties for inflation based on the last increase unrelated to inflation, but is capped at 150 percent of the existing penalty amount. The new civil penalty amounts are applicable only to those assessed after Aug. 1, 2016, that are associated violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.

“Civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez told the news agency. “Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don’t follow the law.”

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maximum penalties, which have not been raised since 1990, will increase by 78 percent. The top penalty for serious violations will increase from $7,000 to $12,471, and the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) fines are increasing as well, but not as much as OSHA’s. Fines for flagrant violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act are increasing from $242,000 to $250,433, and the fine for failure to correct is increasing from $6,500 to $7,500.

Agencies must publish interim final rules by July 1, 2016 and will accept public comments for 45 days.