OSHA Increases Fines For Safety Violations By Construction Companies
In an effort to improve the workplace safety conditions for construction workers throughout the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has raised the fines for violations of its safety regulations by construction companies for the first time since 1990. Since the 2016 federal budget bill directs the agency to raise fines on a yearly basis to keep them in line with the Consumer Price Index, the initial change could raise the dollar amount of OSHA fines by a whopping 82 percent.
The new fine amounts will be implemented in August of 2016, and will make a fine that is $7,000 today cost a company around $12,740. Depending on the violation and if it is considered willful or not, violating companies could see fines skyrocket so high that everyone except the largest companies could have difficulty paying them.
Since construction fatalities accounted for an alarming 20.6 percent of all private industry deaths in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is obvious that the raise in safety violations is long past due in getting the attention of unsafe construction companies. In fact, according to David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, “penalties must be increased to provide a real disincentive for employers accepting injuries and worker deaths as a cost of doing business.”
Some industry safety experts disagree with the increased fines, however. Many feel that OSHA should focus more on education and outreach than on increasing fines. Additionally, it has been suggested that the extra money OSHA receives from the increased fines be utilized to provide education and outreach and to supply safety equipment and materials to construction companies.
In addition to the fine increase, violating construction companies can expect to see more frequent and more thorough inspections in their future. OSHA recently announced that it is in the process of overhauling its inspection process to make it more rigorous as well, so companies can expect to see increases of numerous violations. According to Smart Business, regions in which violation occur more frequently will experience an increase in attention from OSHA.
Construction workers who are aware of possible safety violations in the workplace should report any issues to their supervisor as soon as a danger is noticed, and if necessary, request an inspection from OSHA to help prevent future on the job injuries.