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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is again raising the penalties it can assess against employers for workplace safety violations.
The Department of Labor will adjust the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced in its regulations, per the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015, which requires the department to annually adjust its civil monetary levels for inflation no later than Jan. 15 of each year, according to a final rule published in the Federal Register on Jan. 13.
The penalty increases — effective Jan. 13 — will apply to department agencies including OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and the Wage and Hour Division.
The 2017 annual adjustment is 1.0%, based on the Consumer Price Index, meaning that the maximum fine faced by employers for willful and repeat OSHA violations will rise to $126,749 while the maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious citations will increase to $12,675.
OSHA-approved state plans must have maximum and minimum penalty levels at least as effective as federal OSHA’s fines, according to the notice. Twenty-six states including Oregon and Washington have OSHA-approved state plans.
The Labor Department rejected public comments by state agencies in North Carolina, Kentucky and New Mexico that contended that OSHA was exceeding its authority granted by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 signed by President Barack Obama in November 2015, which required all federal agencies with civil monetary penalties covered by the statute, such as OSHA, to update their fines.
The states argued that the rule-making violated the notice-and-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, but the department said the penalty increase constitutes a minor technical amendment and fits within an APA exception that does not require notice and comment.
A Wisconsin lumber company is facing $260,113 in proposed fines from federal workplace safety regulators after a 24-year-old worker suffered the partial amputation of his right middle finger.