While fines should never be the incentive for maintaining workplace safety, you’ll pay a lot more for violations starting this fall. A lot more.
Under a new policy adopted by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, fines for workplace violations will jump by 80 percent sometime before Aug. 1, 2016. That means the penalty for a willful violation that is $70,000 today will be about $127,000.
That change was authorized in November 2015, under a new federal budget that authorized OSHA to raise fines for the first time in 25 years. OSHA had previously been prohibited from raising fines to account for inflation, but the budget deal removed that prohibition, and the new fines will be based on the total inflation between 1990 and 2015.
If you’re a building manager, now would be a good time to take a serious look at your safety equipment and policies.
Doing it right upfront could save you plenty, as a milling company in Georgia found out in 2012. OSHA cited the company 24 serious safety and health violations, including:
- Failure to select appropriate personal protective equipment and train workers how to use it
- Failure to properly guard stairwells
- A lack of fall protection barriers around platforms
In all, OSHA assessed the company $157,500 in fines. One could assume that it would have saved a lot of money by simply investing in appropriate equipment.
Many OSHA citations aren’t as costly and involve only a few violations that may occur due to honest mistakes. To ensure you don’t run afoul of OSHA guidelines, schedule a safety audit before the new fines take effect. OSHA also offers an online tool for assessing risk in the workplace.
Fines are just one of the consequences of faulty or inadequate safety equipment. If an employee is injured in the workplace, your workers’ compensation premium may increase, along with your business insurance premiums. You may lose valuable production time, while the cause of a workplace accident is under investigation. And you may have to hire and train a new employee, if the injured employee can’t return to the workplace.
Accidents can and will occur from time to time, but they’ll be must less likely if workers have access to appropriate safety equipment that’s well maintained.