Michaels: Look for higher proposed penalties beginning in October

A new OSHA policy that will increase the amount of proposed penalties will launch next month, agency administrator David Michaels said.

Speaking Sept. 14 at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission's Annual Judicial Conference in Charleston, SC, Michaels said although he suspects the increase in penalty amounts will increase the number of contested penalties, he did not expect the rate to mirror the increase seen by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. After the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act went into effect in 2006 and increased fines, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission saw the number of contested cases it handles increase dramatically, creating a backlog in the thousands.

The citations and penalties OSHA has issued this fiscal year have resulted in more "egregious" and "significant" cases than any other time in the last decade, Michaels noted, calling enforcement efforts a "proven, useful deterrent" for employers who may be tempted to cut corners on safety.

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