OSHA focuses on 'severe violators,' increasing penalties

OSHA is launching a Severe Violator Enforcement Program (.pdf file) and increasing civil penalty amounts, according to an agency press release.

The violator program, which goes into effect in June, targets "recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law," the release said. OSHA said it will increase inspections of those worksites and others owned by the same employer that may have similar hazards.

The agency also decided to change its penalty system (.pdf file) based on recommendations from a work group that found assessed penalties are too low to deter violators, the release said. The average penalty for a serious violation will increase to between $3,000 and $4,000 from about $1,000.

In the news release, OSHA administrator David Michaels noted that the changes are not a substitute for the penalty increases in the Protecting America's Workers Act. OSHA has raised its penalties only once in the 40 years since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

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