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OSHA Raises Workplace Safety Penalties for 2020

OSHA Announces Raise in Workplace Safety Penalties

OSHA penalties were increased again this year, but the hike was less than 2 percent.

Civil penalties assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rose for 2020. This follows a hike in these levels in 2019. It helps to know how these increases are calculated. Top willful and serious violations from 2019 enhance our understanding of mistakes that are often made, while top fines from 2019 show us how challenging the financial impact can be – before even addressing litigation fees and other potential costs.


2020 Hike On OSHA Fines Less Dramatic than 2019

Federal fines for noncompliance with health and safety laws went up 1.8 percent over their 2019 levels on January 15th. This increase is due to the Inflation Adjustment Act (Pub. L. 114-74), which allows the Department of Labor (DOL) agencies such as OSHA to change their fines annually based on inflation.

  • Willful violations (indifference or conscious noncompliance) — Minimum rose from $9472 to $9639 (+1.8 percent); maximum rose from $132,598 to $134,937 (+1.8 percent)
  • Repeat violations — Rose from $132,598 to $134,937
  • Failure to abate (per-day fine for failure to rectify non-compliance) — Rose from $13,260 to $13,494 (+1.8 percent)
  • Serious violations (for violations that could lead to workers’ serious injuries or deaths) — Rose from $13,260 to $13,494
  • Failure to display the OSHA safety poster and other non-serious violations — Rose from $13,260 to $13,494.

As you can see below, the 2019 OSHA violation fines increases were worse than those we saw this year:

From 2018 to 2019, OSHA penalties increased as follows:

  • Willful violations — Minimum rose from $9239 to $9472 (+2.5 percent); maximum rose from $126,749 to $132,598 (+4.6 percent)
  • Repeat violations — Rose from $126,749 to $132,598
  • Failure to abate (daily) — Rose from $12,675 to $13,260 (+ 4.6 percent)
  • Serious violations — Rose from $12,675 to $13,260
  • Other than serious violations — Rose from $12,675 to $13,260.


How Are the Fine Adjustments Calculated?

While we have described the percent increase above at 1.8 percent, it is technically 1.764 percent. 1.01764 is the 2020 OSHA adjustment multiplier for cost-of-living. To arrive at this figure, you look at the percent difference between the October 2018 and October 2019 Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U). By law, according to health and safety legislation, a non-serious OSHA violation results in a shift in the rate according to that year-over-year difference in CPI-U for the month of October.


Top Ten 2019 Willful & Serious OSHA Violation Fines

It is striking how often insufficient fall protection results in OSHA penalties and violations. However, it is understandable that OSHA focuses so much on this aspect of compliance since preventable falls account for almost 2 in 5 construction worker deaths!

Here, first, are the ascending top ten OSHA willful violations for last year, along with the total number of violations cited:

OSHA Raises 2020 Workplace Safety Penalties


You can see many of the same types of violations among the top serious violation citations (and take special note of the prominence of scaffolding, second only to fall protection on this list). There are also many more instances of these violations since they are much more commonly charged:


OSHA Raises Workplace Safety Penalties

Largest 2019 OSHA Fines

When you look at the three largest fines (total for all violations) OSHA issued during 2019, the first thing you notice is that all of them were in construction. In fact, all of the top ten OSHA fines for 2019 were in construction. Here are the top three, again ascending:


3.) Total OSHA penalties proposed: $462,579

Sarasota, Florida

Crown Roofing LLC

There were OSHA fines issued for three different job sites of this Florida company. The nearly half-million dollars in fines were broken up as follows: $197,383 and $132,598 for two projects in Naples and another $132,598 for a project in Port Saint Lucie.


2.) Total OSHA penalties proposed: $528,692

Alexandria, Virginia

T.D. Fraley & Sons

When one of this company’s workers was electrocuted by a live power line and went to the hospital, Fraley received 12 OSHA fines. The agency determined the location of the scaffolding did not provide sufficient space for workers to avoid the power line. The OSHA citations and fines were actually issued by an OSHA-approved state plan, Virginia Occupational Safety, and Health (VOSH).


1.) Total OSHA penalties proposed: $1,792,726

Saco, Maine

Shawn D. Purvis / Purvis Home Improvement Co. Inc.

OSHA issued the largest fine proposal amount of the year to this Maine contractor.

There were penalties related to two sites, one in Old Orchard Beach and the

other in Portland. A worker fell 20 feet to his death at the latter location. Of the three serious and 13 willful violations cited by OSHA, different problems were addressed, including that face protections were inadequate and that a power line was too close to a scaffold. However, the vast majority of these massive OSHA violations and fines were related to insufficient fall protection.


Protecting Yourself from OSHA Penalties

To keep yourself from joining the ranks of those who have had to face large health and safety fines, get help. At Alpha-Omega Training and Compliance, we specialize in occupational health and safety training and education. Contact us to schedule your courses today!


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