Fines for certain workplace safety violations have now increased for the first time since 1990. The increase in fines went into effect on August 1, 2016 and it was a substantial increase. The hope is these higher fines will act as a better deterrent to convince employers to follow Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) guidelines aimed at preventing workplace injuries. Unfortunately, even with the higher fines, problems remain. OSHA is still understaffed, inspections are still rare, and employers may still fail to follow the rules.
When an employer violates OSHA, the chances of a work accident increase significantly. However, worksite accidents can happen even under the best of circumstances when things simply go wrong. Whenever a workplace accident happens, regardless of whether an employer was or wasn’t following OSHA guidelines, employees should be entitled to get medical bills covered and to receive other work injury benefits. An Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can provide guidance and assistance to workers who have been harmed and to family members of workers killed on-the-job.
Higher OSHA Fines Are Aimed at Reducing Atlanta Work Injuries
The maximum fines for OSHA violations jumped 78.2 percent for certain categories of violation. For example:
- The maximum fine for serious and other-than-serious violations was $7,000 and is now $12,741.
- The maximum fine for willful and repeat violations was $70,000 and is now $124,709.
- The maximum fine for failure to abate was $7,000 and is now $12,741.
This big jump in maximum fines happened on August 1, 2016 because a substantial increase was necessary to adjust for inflation since maximum penalties haven’t changed since 1990. To prevent future delays in increasing OSHA penalties, the fines on the federal level will now be adjusted with inflation. This means instead of one big increase, there will be annual or periodic increases depending upon inflation rates. States are also required to adjust their own fines within six months if they don’t follow federal OSHA guidelines, and the new fines have to be at least as effective as the ones the federal regulators have put into place.
The higher penalties do not, however, mean that every single employer will be fined the maximum if work safety rules are violated. OSHA considers four criteria in assessing fines, including the severity or gravity of the violation (this is given the greatest weight); the size of the company; any good faith efforts made by the company to comply with OSHA or evidence of a lack of good faith; and finally whether the company has a history of past OSHA violations or not. If a company immediately corrects a problem, it can also get a penalty abatement for the quick fix.
Hopefully, these new fines will help to deter companies from violating the rules so employees will be safer. However, there is no guarantee employees will do better at following the rules or that work injuries will be prevented even if they do. Employees who get hurt need to know what they should do if they are harmed by performance of job duties, as they have rights regardless of whether OSHA violations occurred or not.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you have been injured at work.