Michaels: State OSH programs should raise penalties

December 2, 2010

State Plan states should increase their proposed penalties in light of federal OSHA's recent increase in penalties, agency administrator David Michaels said in a Nov. 16 speech broadcast at Washington state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health's State Plan Safety and Health Symposium in Tumwater.

Federal OSHA on Oct. 1 began using a new calculation method to determine proposed penalties. Michaels suggested state-run occupational safety and health programs should adopt such a change to be "at least as effective" as their federal counterpart.

He said the threat of penalties serves as a deterrent against cutting corners. Many of the State Plan states have average penalties for serious violations that "do not provide a credible deterrent," Michaels said.

Variations in penalties across the country pose a problem, the OSHA chief said, because they hamper a consistent response to nationwide problems. Along those lines, Michaels said all states should participate in National Emphasis Programs. He also said federal OSHA would establish a structure for states to provide input on developing NEPs and other policy changes.