Effective January 2, civil penalties for violations of workplace safety and health standards are 2 percent higher, with a new maximum fine of nearly $130,000. OSHA increased its penalties to adjust for inflation as required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015, which initially raised civil penalties by 78 percent after over 2 decades without a penalty increase and mandated annual adjustments by January 15 of each year.
The new penalty levels will apply to all violations occurring after November 2, 2015, with penalties assessed after January 2, 2018.
The following chart compares penalties in effect January 2, 2018, to the January 2017 levels:
|Violation||January 2017 penalty levels||Penalties as of January 2, 2018|
|Any willful violation of OSHA rules or standards||Minimum of $9,054 up to $126,749||Minimum of $9,239 up to $129,336|
|Any repeat violation of OSHA rules or standards||Up to $126,749||Up to $129,336|
|Any serious violation of OSHA rules or standards||Up to $12,675||Up to $12,934|
|Any OSHA violation deemed not serious||Up to $12,675||Up to $12,934|
|Failure to correct a violation||Up to $12,675 for each day the condition continues||Up to $12,934 for each day the condition continues|
|Violation of posting requirements||Up to $12,675||Up to $12,934|
The penalty levels that employers face depend on when the violation(s) occur and when penalties are assessed. OSHA will use the following schedule to determine which penalty amounts apply in a given enforcement case:
|Violations occurring||Penalty assessed||Which penalty level applies|
|On or before November 2, 2015||On or before August 1, 2016||Pre-August 1, 2016 levels|
|On or before November 2, 2015||After August 1, 2016||Pre-August 1, 2016 levels|
|After November 2, 2015||After August 1, 2016, but on or before January 13, 2017||August 1, 2016 levels|
|After November 2, 2015||After January 13, 2017, but on or before January 2, 2018||January 13, 2017 levels|
|After November 2, 2015||After January 2, 2018||January 2, 2018 levels|
[via EHS Daily Advisor]
$108,000 Fine for No Eyewash
A marine terminal operator in Seattle is facing a $448,200 fine from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for failing to correct serious worker health hazards for which it was previously cited. The fine is one of L&I’s largest in recent years.
In an inspection at Seattle Bulk Shipping Inc.’s Harbor Island facility, L&I found that the company failed to correct serious violations that it was cited for last year, leaving workers exposed to serious hazards for more than a year.
The company performs several operations at the facility including transferring large quantities of highly flammable ethanol fuel from rail cars to tanker trucks, loading grain on rail cars and transferring it between trucks.
L&I’s follow-up inspection found that Seattle Bulk Shipping failed to correct a “confined space” violation it was cited for in 2015. The employer did not develop an adequate confined space entry program to protect employees who work around or inside grain pits or other confined spaces. Without safety precautions, confined spaces can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers. Failure to correct this serious violation carries a penalty of $324,000.
The company was also cited for a second violation that hadn’t been corrected for failing to provide an approved emergency eyewash station for workers who transfer ethanol from rail cars and tanker trucks. Ethanol is a strong irritant in addition to being highly flammable; without an eyewash station, workers could suffer serious eye injuries. Failure to correct this violation carries a penalty of $108,000.
The employer was cited for three additional serious violations related to emergency procedures for potential ethanol release and confined space rescue. Each of those violations has a $5,400 penalty.
Investigation Began Following Worker Injury
L&I began investigating the company in 2014, when a worker was hospitalized after falling into an underground grain storage pit.
After comprehensive safety and health inspections, the company was ultimately cited for more than 50 workplace violations and fined $424,850. Those violations are currently under appeal. The company is considered a severe violator, which means it is subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist.
Seattle Bulk Shipping was given 15 business days to appeal the violations.