While much of the rest of the government is shutdown, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) is hard at work.  OSHA which is an agency within DOL is one of the few agencies that is fully funded and operational.  On January 15th, OSHA issued a pre-published version of its Federal Register notice for the increase in civil penalties for violations of OSHA standards and regulations to adjust for inflation. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act) requires the Department to annually adjust its civil money penalty levels for inflation no later than January 15 of each year.  However, due to the government shutdown, the Office of the Federal Register is closed and until the government reopens, the notice will not published.  Meaning that OSHA penalties will not increase until the the date of publication of the Federal Register notice.  The effective date of the new penalties will be the date of publication and the increase will only apply to citations issued after the effective date of the increase and for the remainder of 2019.

OSHA penalties for all classifications will increase by $326.  For other-than-serious, serious and failure to abate violations, penalties will increase from $12,934 per violation to $13,260 per violation.  The penalty for willful and repeat violations increased from $129,336 to $132,589.

The 2019 maximum penalties are as follows:

  • Other-than-Serious: $13,260
  • Serious: $13,260
  • Repeat : $132,589
  • Willful: $132,589

The penalty increase applies to Federal OSHA states, however, OSHA expects that states operating their own occupational safety and health program will align penalty structures with Federal OSHA so that such programs are equally effective as Federal OSHA.  While this is OSHA’s expectation there has been little adjustment from various state plans to align with the increase in penalties.  For example, North Carolina and Kentucky still maintain a $7,000 maximum fine for serious violations and $70,000 for willful or repeats.