Late last year, OSHA announced in a posting on its website its plan to change its penalty calculation system with the overall goal of increasing fines to deter violations. OSHA stated:
Many of the agency’s current penalty adjustment factors have been in place since the early 1970’s, resulting in penalties which are often too low to have an adequate deterrent effect.
It looks like they meant what they said. We are now beginning to see the effects of those changes here in Cleveland, where OSHA has proposed initial fines far greater than we’ve seen in the past. The changes include increasing base fines and expanding the window for repeat classifications. Employers will still have the opportunity to engage in informal settlement, which often results in an agreement to reduce the total penalty.