OSHA announces 2019 increases to maximum penalty amounts

OSHA announces 2019 increases to maximum penalty amounts

On the front lines with Fisher Phillips

by Travis Vance and Pamela Williams

Employers can expect higher penalties from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Fed-OSHA) in the coming year. Fed-OSHA announced on Jan. 15, 2019 that it plans to increase the maximum penalty it can issue an employer for serious and other-than-serious citations to $13,260. It will boost the highest amount that can be issued for repeat and willful violations to $132,598. Details on Fed-OSHA’s announcement is available for review at www.osha.gov/penalties/2019InflationAdjustments.pdf .

This chart also outlines all the agency’s increases:

Increases to Fed-OSHA maximum penalty amounts are annual events. The Jan. 15 penalty increase was driven by the Federal Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. Known as the “Inflation Law,” the act directed several agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation to “catch up” for the lack of previous increases beginning in 2015 and continuing every year thereafter. Before the Inflation Law was implemented, Fed-OSHA’s maximum penalties for serious and repeat citations were much lower – at $7,000 and $70,000, respectively.

Fed-OSHA’s new penalty increases will not take effect until they are published in the Federal Register. The Inflation Law requires agencies to publish their annual penalty increases by Jan. 15 of each year; however, the partial government shutdown delayed that process this year. Fed-OSHA explained that the effective date for the penalty increases will be the date they are published. At that time, the increased penalty levels will apply to any penalties assessed after the effective date of the increase.

Employers should get used to Fed-OSHA increasing penalties every January. If your business operates in a state where a state agency enforces the OSH Act, maximum penalty amounts may differ. If you have questions or need guidance concerning this issue, consider contacting legal counsel.

Travis Vance is a partner in the firm’s Charlotte office. He can be reached at tvance@fisherphillips.com or 704•778•4164.

Pamela Williams is a partner in the firm’s Houston office. She can be reached at pwilliams@fisherphillips.com or 713•292•5622.

Visit their website at fisherphillips.com.

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