With Cal-OSHA violations on the rise the question is are your company’s safety policies adequate?
Cal- Osha Violations: As a result of the new budget the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration otherwise known as (OSHA) is set to increase penalties for all OSHA Violations for the first time since 1990. Perhaps you are asking yourself the question “Who is OSHA and why should I be concerned?” OSHA is a part of the Department of Labor, OSHA is a Federal Agency that ensures safe and healthy working conditions for employees by enforcing workplace safety standards and safety training in the workplace.
OSHA is the arm of the federal government that enforces these safety regulations by imposing fines and penalties for unsafe work practices. As it stands right now employers are being crushed even before this budget was signed but now things will get worse fast. From 1990 through 2015 OSHA’s fines had not increased. From 1990 to 2015 OSHA was one of three federal agencies that were exempt from a law requiring agencies to raise the rate of OSHA.
All of this will change because of a section of the 2015 budget bill-the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment-Act Improvements Act of 2015. This section has eliminated that status and now the rate that employers will pay for any and all OSHA Violations will increase a bunch.
For those employers who live in California, this will cause the Cal-Osha violations to rise as well. The reason for that is Cal-Osha is funded to a large extent by OSHA and therefore, Cal-Osha must be in line with what OSHA does. The new budget bill features a one-time “catch-up” feature which at the end of a long day allow OSHA Violations be raised somewhere between 75-80% higher than what we are now seeing.
Violations as they reflect the increases:
- Non-Serious OSHA Violations will now be: $12,600
- Serious OSHA Violations will now be: $12,600
- Willful Violations OSHA Violations will now be: $126,000
- Repeat Violations OSHA Violations will now be: $126,000.
Cal-OSHA has already been raising their fines at an alarming rate. As stated above Cal-OSHA gets about 50% of their funding from Federal OSHA.
In Addition Cal-OSHA has changed their enforcement procedures in the field.
Most employers are not aware of this change, but the result is this: If you are not doing what your Safety Program says you do you will be fined. It is not enough to simply say yes I do all of those things now you must document them.
Things You Must Document:
• Safety Training
• Disciplinary Actions
• Cal-OSHA 300 Logs
• Hazard Inspections
• Employee’s Report of Unsafe Conditions
• Documentation or Abatement Procedures Which Means To Fix and Repair Hazards
Who is at risk?
All employers both retail, and white collar companies down to the construction, automotive repair, and auto body shops. In a nutshell, if you have an employee you need to be complying with all of the Cal-Osha and OSHA Standards. What should employers do? In my experience, most employers are not prepared to get their company compliant with OSHA and Cal-Osha. Given that, I would encourage you to get a Safety Consultant to help you. It just so happens I know of a company called California Employers Services that can help you. But no matter who you get, make sure they know what they are doing and that they care about your rights as an employer.
Additional Information and Insights:
Once the initial catch-up adjustment has been used OSHA Violations will increase annually based upon the Consumer Price Index. Below is a list of the violations that employers could be cited for: Violations that carry no monetary penalty. These are called De Minimis Violations Non-Serious or Other than Serious Serious Violations the non-serious and serious categories carry fines up to $7000.00 which could rise to $12,000.00 if the full increase is assessed. Willful Violations.
An example of a willful violation would be not complying with your safety program. For instance, your Illness and Injury Prevention Program may say that you do quarterly inspections, but you fail to do them that would be willful. Repeat Violations willful and repeat violations can incur penalties up to $70,000 per-violation. Should Cal-OSHA choose to use the full catch-up adjustment, the maximum penalty for a serious violation would rise above $12,000 and the maximum penalty for a willful and repeat violation would rise to about $125,000 per violation.
This is not good news for any employer, but it could prove to be devastating for the smaller employees. While OSHA does have the choice to not use all of the onetime adjustment penalty they do not have to. With that being said from what we hear from Cal-OSHA management is there does not seem to be much of a chance of employers getting a break. OSHA’s assistant secretary, David Michaels, made this comment “the most serious obstacle to effective OSHA enforcement of the law is the very low level of civil penalties allowed under our law …” He went on to say that “OSHA penalties must be increased to provide a real disincentive for employers accepting injuries and worker deaths as a cost of doing business.”
While this news is not good it is not all bad news: There will be many things that both OSHA and Cal-Osha will give considerations to before leveling violations. The size of the company. Employers who have less than 100 employees should not be hit with the highest penalties. The company’s history of OSHA violations and the company’s good faith effort in the abatement of workplace hazards and fines. An employer who has been inspected by OSHA within the previous five years and has no serious, willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations will receive a 10 percent reduction for its good safety history. On the other hand, if you have a poor safety track record your company will not experience the good side of OSHA.•
What should employers to do to prepare for 2016 and the increase of Osha Violation Penalties? Should OSHA or Cal-Osha come calling be nice, be prepared and use this time to get your business in compliance. When OSHA comes, do not refuse them entry into your business.
- Know what your safety policies on the floor are and be prepared to explain and document what you as an employer are doing to provide a safe and healthy work environment. This will help you to avoid Cal-OSHA Violations.
- Know and expect this the fines are going to increase in 2016. The fines will be high enough that it may be time to take action and understand that a $125,000.00 fine will be possible going forward.
Should you need help, we can help you..