Fines To Rise Dramatically In 2016: OSHA Safety Consultants Can Prepare You
If your business is in OSHA jurisdiction, chances are good that you’ve already heard about the new federal budget bill, which will allow OSHA to raise its fines for the first time since 1990. Is your company ready? It’s time to plan and prepare, before the situation becomes critical. A better-funded OSHA will undoubtedly lead to more rigorous inspection and enforcement. With help from OSHA safety consultants like Optimum Safety Management, you can rest assured that your company is in full compliance and your workers are fully trained before the stakes go up significantly.
Because it’s been so long since an adjustment to the penalty rate was allowed, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 allows for a one-time “catch-up” hike in fines. OSHA has not yet announced how much they will raise the fines, but because Dr. David Michaels, the current chief of OSHA, has been a consistent proponent of a significant rate hike, it is expected that they will announce an increase at or very close to the maximum allowed by the federal budget.
The upper limit for the percentage of the one-time hike is tied to the percentage difference in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) between October 1990 and October 2015. The new penalties will go into effect by August 1, 2016. Experts across a number of industries agree that it’s likely to be close to a 78 percent jump, based on the recently announced October 2015 CPI figures. At a rate of 78 percent increase, today’s $7,000 OSHA fine would jump to a staggering $12,741, with larger penalties for repeat or willful offenses topping $120,000 per offense. In addition, OSHA will make Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) each year after 2016, based on the percentage of CPI increase over the previous year.
What can you do to protect your business and your workers?
An Ounce Of Prevention
- Learn – Obviously, if you’re running a business with employees, you should be aware of the pertinent OSHA regulations, but are you up to date on the latest changes? Do you know what OSHA’s inspectors are looking for, and what factors can trigger inspections?
- Assess – Every business needs periodic evaluation of its facilities, procedures, and policies. As regulations and industry standard are updated, your business needs a fresh assessment of its OSHA compliance and safety management. A thorough assessment should include everything from hiring and training practices to subcontractor management and ergonomics, and less obvious factors like your business culture. Does your culture encourage employees to be an active part of maintaining a safe work environment?
- Correct – Once you’ve identified the weaknesses in your company’s compliance and safety practices, you’re ready to take action. Maybe your facilities or equipment need to be updated. Maybe you need to write new policies and procedures. Maybe you need to fine-tune your business culture to gain your employees cooperation on a greater scale. Whatever the issues are, the key to making successful corrections will be in building a whole system geared toward a safety culture; take this opportunity to lay a foundation that will last.
- Train – After you’ve taken corrective action, it’s time to make sure that your workers are trained and compliant on the changes you’ve made, and refreshed on their knowledge of standards that were already in place. Managers need to be refreshed and trained on maintaining compliance through every aspect of your business. Be sure your training includes the reasons for your policies and procedures, not just a checklist of things to do, or not do. If your people are knowledgeable and cooperative, your business will be in excellent shape to stay safe from injuries and huge fines.
- Plan – The final step is planning for staying compliant as your business grows and regulations change again in future. Make a schedule for periodic evaluations of your facilities, safety records, policies, procedures, and training. Budget for needed updates and upgrades, and be sure to stay on schedule.
A Pound Of Cure
OSHA inspectors rarely announce their visits in advance. Most often, they simply show up, and they see what they see. You hope you’ve prepared adequately, and everything is fine, but humans sometimes forget things and they make mistakes, and if you’re unlucky, the OSHA inspector will see some resulting violation at your facility or job site.
Perhaps, despite your best efforts, a reportable or recordable incident happens at your site. You have no choice but to report it, but do you have a contingency plan in place to help lessen the blow?
Whether you’re in the middle of upgrading your compliance practices, or just plain caught off guard, incidents and infractions can have a devastating financial impact on your business. When it’s too late for prevention, do you know how to get the help you need to manage the situation?
Managing a violation or incident correctly can make a huge difference in how your company comes out of an OSHA incursion.
Call For Backup
If you’re taking preventive measures and planning for the future, you’re smart to be keeping one step ahead. With professional evaluations and planning advice from OSHA safety consultants, your business can move toward a level of safety where you’ll never need to be worried about a surprise inspection again. An objective evaluation is invaluable as the basis for refining your compliance programs.
If you’re already dealing with a violation or an incident, you’ll be glad to know that help is available, and all hope is not lost. OSHA services like incident management can help you resolve your OSHA issues with as little pain as possible, and move forward into a position where you won’t have to worry about repeating the experience.
An OSHA safety consultant offers clients peace of mind and improved profits by improving their overall safety culture with assessments, education and training, compliance assistance, and OSHA services like incident management. Call Optimum Safety Management now to prepare your business to not only weather the OSHA storm on the way, but to come out shining. Contact us today to learn how we can assist your business in navigating OSHA services and beyond, so you are not subject to these higher penalties.