The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has boosted its maximum fines for workplace safety violations.
The new maximum fine for “serious” violations is $13,500 per violation, while the top fine for “willful” or “repeated” violations is $135,000 per violation.
Typically, an OSHA investigation is prompted by a worker contacting OSHA anonymously or an employer filing a required report.
Employers generally are not obligated to inform OSHA about workplace injuries except in certain circumstances:
- a fatality must be reported within eight hours;
- an incident involving inpatient hospitalization of one or more employees must be reported within 24 hours; and
- any incidents involving amputation or the loss of an eye must be reported.
After an incident, OSHA inspectors typically arrive unannounced. Usually an inspector observes the accident site and takes images or videos. Employers should expect to provide safety policies and records, logs of illnesses and injuries, and information on personal protective equipment, hazard communication, etc. They should also expect OSHA to conduct interviews of managers and other employees.
After an inspection, OSHA may issue written citations with proposed fines. Companies can dispute fines through an informal settlement conference or through litigation before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Be prepared before an OSHA inspector arrives. It helps to form an OSHA Response Team at your workplace. Maintain updated safety policies and conduct regular safety audits.
Consult with a lawyer to be sure your policies are sufficient and your audits are complete.