DENVER, CO -- Multiple Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) changes have recently taken effect with the 2016 OSHA Compliance and Recordkeeping Final Rule Guide. The new guide highlights a 78% inflation increase to OSHA fines, new public disclosure of workplace injuries rule and warning to employers against retaliatory post-accident drug testing.
"Avitus Group makes sure our clients are trained so that they can be in compliance with all of the complex HR laws and aware of OSHA regulations that are constantly changing," said Dianne Parker, Avitus Group Public Relations Manager. "Our OSHA Compliance and Recordkeeping Final Rule Guide is designed to help all employers navigate the most recent changes."
"As of August 2, 2016, OSHA is increasing penalties by 78% for each safety violation," added Ramon Barraza, Avitus Group's Denver-based Safety Consultant and Trainer. "The hefty inflationary increase could have a huge impact on an employer's bottom line, but it is also designed to encourage a safe work environment for employees."
At the direction of Congress, the Department of Labor has adjusted civil penalties to account for inflation. An inflationary increase had not been made since 1990. For OSHA, it means a 78% increase to any citation issued by the department on or after August 1, 2016, if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015. There are three types of violations issued by OSHA: Serious, Other-Than-Serious, Posting Requirements; Failure to Abate; and Willful or Repeated. The maximum penalty for the first two categories is going from $7,000 per violation to $12,471 per violation. A Willful or Repeated violation will now cost an employer $124,709 per violation vs. the prior maximum penalty of $70,000. OSHA is set to adjust penalties for inflation each year based on the consumer price index.
"OSHA has always required employers to provide workers with worksites free of recognized serious hazards, however, each year there are millions of workers injured on the job. Employers are currently required to record those injuries via the standard OSHA log, but in just a few short months starting in 2017, many of those injuries will be required to be reported publicly via OSHA's website," said Joe Cantu, Avitus Group's California-based Safety Consultant and Trainer. "This final rule is designed to hold employers accountable, and it targets businesses that are repeat offenders. It also requires OSHA State Plan states like California to adopt requirements that are substantially identical to the requirements in this final rule within six months after publication of the rule."
The final rule requires certain employers to submit the injury and illness information they are already required to record electronically. The requirement applies to establishments with 250 or more employees and requires the establishment to electronically submit information from OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301. Establishments with 20 to 249 employees classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses must electronically submit information from OSHA form 300A. OSHA will post the establishment-specific injury and illness data on its public website and will remove any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) before the data is released to the public.
"OSHA has noted that this new public reporting requirement will only effect change in workplace safety if employees feel they can report injuries and illness without fear of retaliation. One prime example that came up during the discussion of the final rule is post-accident drug testing," said Christine Webb, Avitus Group's Montana-based Safety Consultant and Trainer. "Some companies do use drug testing as a form of retaliation after someone is injured. A good example is if you are in the landscaping business and you get a bee sting, why should you have to be drug tested because you got a bee sting? OSHA does not want employers to use the threat of drug testing to deter an employee from reporting injuries and seeking appropriate medical attention."
The recordkeeping final rule contains three provisions to promote complete and accurate reporting of work-related injuries and illnesses: Employers must inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation; an employer's procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and must not deter or discourage employees from reporting; and an employer may not retaliate against employees for reporting work-related injuries.