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Employers will face fines for safety violations that are 80% higher than current fines starting on August 1.

There's been some concern among lawmakers in recent years regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) somewhat lax fines. Lawmakers have said OSHA's current fine/penalty format isn't enough to effectively deter employers from violating its safety rules. As such, many employers simply accept (and pay) the fines without putting forth the effort to correct the underlying problem.

Under the new federal law that was signed by Congress last year, OSHA's existing penalties for safety violations will increase by nearly 80%. This is the first time that OSHA has adjusted its fines since 1990, attesting to the need for reform.

So, how much can employers expect to pay for safety violations? Reports indicate that the maximum fine an employer will face per violation is increasing from $7,000 to $12,461. And if the employer fails to correct a violation as requested by OSHA, that employer faces an additional $12,471 for each day the violation remains unfixed. Of course, these fines are for negligent violations. The fines are even larger for willful violations.

If OSHA finds an employer has a willful or repeated violation, he or she faces a maximum fine of $124,709 per violation. That number is up from $70,000.

Why is OSHA increasing its maximum penalties for safety violations? There are several different factors that have likely influenced OSHA's decision to adjust its fines, one of which is the simple fact that many lawmakers have declared the fines too low. Fines are designed to be a deterrent for safety violations. If an employer faces a hefty fine, perhaps he or she will take a more proactive approach towards complying with federal state safety regulations. But if the fines are too low, it's an ineffective technique at best.

What's interesting is that some people believe OSHA is currently waiting for August 1 -- when the new, higher fines 'kick in' -- to cite employers for safety violations.

"Clients are expressing concern that OSHA might be waiting to issue citations and proposed penalties in the clients’ pending inspections begun after Nov. 2, 2015," said Eric Hobbs, attorney at Ogletree Deakins PC. “And, I’m confident OSHA is doing so, but only in cases with which they’re trying to make a point or send a message.

What do you think of OSHA's new fines for safety violations?

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