Apr 24, 2010

Stiffer OSHA penalties straining relationships

OSHA ups the ante on citation fines
DailyReporter - Stiffer penalties are threatening an already tempestuous relationship between builders and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"But, also," he said, "I would say the inspections are more thorough."

The agency this year will increase the maximum fines allowed for citations. The maximum penalty for a serious violation will increase from $7,000 to $12,000. The maximum fine for willful citations will increase from $70,000 to $250,000. On Thursday, the agency also rolled out a new program to target repeat offenders of agency safety priorities, such as fall protection and trenching safety.

Scott Allen, spokesman for the OSHA Midwest region, said the new regulations are a step toward being tougher on companies caught violating safety rules. That nationwide strategy already is taking place, he said, and includes the higher fines construction companies are receiving.

"What we hope it means," Allen said, "is that they will be more conscious of what their responsibilities are for following these OSHA regulations."

Inspectors in Wisconsin are increasingly issuing citations for the maximum fine, said Brad Stehno, account executive and safety consultant for R&R Insurance Services Inc., Waukesha.

"OSHA citations over the last year or two years," he said, "they have been pushing the envelope to get more penalty from a dollar standpoint."

Morton said he understands the best way to get companies to fall in line is to hit them in the pocketbook. But he encouraged the agency to continue to carve out time for inspectors to meet informally with builders and keep the dialogue open.
"I hope we keep to the good teamwork, for lack of a better word, relationships," Morton said, "and I hope we can keep it that way because construction is only going to pick up."
Please read full here and the Weekly OSHA report