OSHA Penalties Increase For 2016: What It Means For Your Small Business
Dan Levenson June 07, 2016
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has monitored the workplace safety in American businesses since its inception in 1971. In that time, it has brought forth and adjudicated countless concerns related to employee and workplace safety.
OSHA’s main method of punishment is through fines, which makes August of this year a crucial month for employers of all sizes.
What Happens in August 2016?
Last November, OSHA received permission from the Federal Budget Agreement to raise its fines for safety violations for the first time in more than 25 years. These changes would go into effect in August, along with a clause for potential future increases the bases fines on the Consumer Price Index.
More specifically, here are the new fines, which will go into effect this August:
- The maximum possible fine for willful as well as repeat safety violations is set to increase from $70,000 to about $125,000, an increase of 78%.
- Meanwhile, the limit for first time serious or non-serious safety violations could be as high as $12,600, compared to the previous $7,000.
Of course, these increased fines could have a major impact on your business. So here are four ways in which you can prepare for August to ensure you are not in violation of OSHA rules.
1. Update Your Safety Programs
The most important step to take for OSHA compliance is to make sure that all of your safety documentation, regulations, and programs are up to date. Instead of being reactionary and only updating them when something goes wrong, it pays to be proactive and ensure a safety system is in place that helps prevent the problem to occur in the first place.
2. Train Your Employees And Document it
Of course, regulations and safety programs matter little if your employees are not in on it. So before August, you should make sure that your employees are properly trained in all safety protocols that pertain to them. OSHA’s compliance guide on safety training is a crucial document for this step.
To further protect yourself from liability, documenting your training structure and progress is a great step. Should a complaint arise, you need to be sure that you can show proper training to have taken place. In addition, monitoring your training helps ensure that all employees are involved and learn the necessary protocols.
3. Find The Hazards In Your Workplace
Do you know just where your company’s safety hazards lie? If you don’t, now is the perfect time to find out. Aside from the obvious hazards, investigate and identify any problem areas that may not have led to safety concerns in the past, but could in the future. Again, OSHA’s Checklist for potential safety hazards in the workplace can be especially beneficial for small businesses.
4. Get Employee Feedback
Finally, be sure to involve your employees. Especially as it relates to safety, they are a crucial resource to help you in all of the above steps. If they feel that your safety programs need an update, listen. If they have feedback on your training programs, adjust. If they notice hazards in their daily work environment, take action.
Especially in a unionized environment, be sure to involve any official representatives to increase workplace safety transparency and make sure their concerns are addressed. Management and employees share a concern for safety, and working together proactively to achieve a safe workplace is in everyone’s best interest.
Ultimately, OSHA’s new fine structure for 2016 will not matter if your workplace is safe. And if you make safety a priority through the above 4 steps, you can help ensure that your employees maintain a safe environment and you don’t pay the increased fines. But when an incident does occur, you should be insured.