Last year, Congress passed the 2015 Inflation Adjustment Act as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The new law mandates that federal agencies adjust their civil penalties for inflation every year. OSHA has not increased its civil penalties since 1990, and the agency has asked Congress to pass this measure to allow them to increase penalties for years. Under the new law, OSHA had to publish an interim final rule to adjust its penalties for inflation by July 1, 2016.
Last week, the Department of Labor announced that it had published two interim final rules to adjust penalties: one rule covers penalties assessed by OSHA and other departments such as the Mine Safety & Health Administration and Office of Workers' Compensation Programs; the second rule applies to penalties associated with the H-2B temporary guest worker program.
With the adjustments, OSHA's civil penalties will increase by 78 percent, with its top penalty for serious violations rising from $7,000 to $12,471, and its top penalty for willful or repeated violations rising from $70,000 to $124,709. The increased penalties apply to penalties assessed by OSHA after Aug. 1, 2016, whose associated violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015. OSHA believes these penalty increases will deter violations and significantly benefit workers. States that operate their own plans are required to adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as federal OSHA's.
The interim final rule is available here.
For more information about the new penalties, please see this chart provided by OSHA.