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OSHA Changes: Stiffer Fines for Serious and Willful Violations, New Electronic Reporting Requirements for Some Companies

OSHA is implementing new requirements that raise penalties for workplace safety violations and that mandate a series of new reporting obligations for most employers.

Higher Penalties

OSHA will be implementing new higher penalties for safety violations effective August 1, 2016. Although just coming into effect now, these changes have been in the works since passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 in November of last year. Pursuant to this legislation, all federal agencies, including OSHA, were required to adjust their penalty rates to track with inflation. OSHA itself has not increased its fine schedule since 1990.

For violations predating this change, penalties for "serious" violations were capped at $7,000 per citation, and the maximum fine for "willful" violations was $70,000. Starting next month, these caps will rise to $12,471 and $124,709, respectively - an increase of over 78 percent. Starting next year, OSHA will begin adjusting these penalty ceilings annually for inflation.

Any new citations issued after August 1 will still be subject to the new penalty caps, even for violations that actually occurred before that date.

New Injury Reporting Rule

OSHA is also implementing new rules for annual report submissions. For incidents occurring on or after August 10, 2016, some employers will be required to submit annual electronic reports of all recordable incidents through OSHA's website. The new requirement is based on the size of the employer (except in special cases where OSHA may require additional reporting), and is being phased in as follows:

  • Small employers (fewer than 20 employees). There is no rule change for small employers. Most small companies (with the exception of those that employ 10 or fewer, and some employers in designated low-risk industries) should maintain and provide access to OSHA injury logs (OSHA Form 300, "Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses"). In addition, all small employers in all industries are responsible for reporting, on a case-by-case basis, any work-related fatalities; inpatient hospitalizations; amputations; or loss of an eye. A work-related fatality must be reported within 8 hours; all other qualifying injuries should be reported within 24 hours. These time-sensitive incident reports can be made electronically or by phone to the local OSHA Area Office or the OSHA hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
  • Mid-sized employers (20 to 249 employees). If mid-sized employers operate in an OSHA-designated "high-risk" industry (67 categories that generally include manufacturing, construction, utilities, warehousing, and transportation), they will be required to electronically submit OSHA Form 300A ("Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses") for the year ending July 1, 2017. This requirement is in addition to those listed above.
  • Large employers (250 or more employees). In addition to the requirements listed above for small and mid-sized employers, large employers in all industries will eventually (starting July 2018) be required to submit both Form 300 and Form 301 ("Injury and Incident Report") electronically through the OSHA website.

As noted above, the first deadline for electronic submission of annual reports will be July 1, 2017. All data submitted will be made available for public review online, with employees' protected personal information redacted.

OSHA has also formally come out against certain employer programs: (a) rewarding or incentivizing the reduction of workplace accidents, and (b) requiring automatic drug-testing of employees involved in workplace safety accidents (on the theory that such policies actually discourage employees from reporting injuries). We will provide additional details on these new OSHA developments shortly.

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