The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed by President Obama on November 2nd, contains a buried provision with the potential to substantially impact employers. Section 701 of the Act significantly increases the maximum civil penalties that may be imposed for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA penalties — which have not changed since 1990 — must now be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. In addition, the penalties are subject to a “catch up” calculation intended to reflect changes in the CPI since 1996. The maximum allowable penalties for OSHA citations in 2016 are anticipated to increase as follows: penalties for “willful” violations are anticipated to increase from $70,000 to $106,158, and penalties for “serious” and “other than serious” violations are anticipated to increase from $7,000 to $10,616.
These numbers will only grow larger in coming years, as annual adjustments are made in relation to changes in the CPI.