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OSHA to unbundle citations, seeking greater compliance, fining over safety rules

Posted On: Jan. 27, 2023 12:05 PM CST


Seeking to improve accountability among employers who repeatedly violate workplace safety and health rules, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will change the way it cites companies to ensure greater compliance.

OSHA says its administrators will now have the authority to cite certain types of violations as “instance-by-instance citations” for cases where the agency identifies “high-gravity” serious violations of OSHA standards specific to certain conditions where the language of the rule supports a citation for each instance of non-compliance.

The agency said in a statement that it is also discouraging its administrators not to group violations, “and instead cite them separately to more effectively encourage employers to comply.”

“Smart, impactful enforcement means using all the tools available to us when an employer ‘doesn’t get it’ and will respond to only additional deterrence in the form of increased citations and penalties,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in a statement. “This is intended to be a targeted strategy for those employers who repeatedly choose to put profits before their employees’ safety, health and wellbeing. Employers who callously view injured or sickened workers simply as a cost of doing business will face more serious consequences.” 

The conditions that apply to the enhanced enforcement measures include lockout/tagout, machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, falls, trenching and for cases with other-than-serious violations specific to recordkeeping. 

“The change is intended to ensure OSHA personnel are applying the full authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Act where increased citations are needed to discourage non-compliance,” the department said. 

The new guidance covers enforcement activity in general industry, agriculture, maritime and construction industries, and becomes effective 60 days from Jan. 26, 2023. The current policy has been in place since 1990 and applies only to egregious willful citations.