Every year we experience changes throughout the OSHA 29 CFRs and increased OSHA enforcement of those regulations. This year, we will also see increased fines. The first increase in over two decades.
As an employer, especially those in the construction industry and/or those who use temporary employees, it is important to understand what OSHA is looking for to limit safety concerns in the workplace and to avoid hefty fines they impose. As if tens of thousands of dollars in penalties weren’t enough, the new price increases are estimated to be near 80%. Minor violations could now cost employers upwards of $12,000 per incident and willful and/or repeat violations could hit employers with fines in the $120,000’s. The final penalty increases are projected to include an annual increase and final amounts have not been finalized.
We expect OSHA’s to be increasing enforcement of two big policies: their General Duty Clause and their The Multi-employer Worksite Policy.
General Duty Clause
The General Duty Clause covers hazards that don’t have applicable standards and just a few of those are:
- Worker’s exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures
- Combustible dust
- Workplace Violence
Section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA General Duty Clause, employers must protect employees from known workplace hazards likely to cause harm up to and including death.
The Multi-employer Worksite
Construction and manufacturing employers often have employees, contractors, and consultants on the same job site and this hasn’t been missed by OSHA. They are citing multiple employers at one location and prosecuting them all for shared violations.
The OSHA Multi-Employer Worksite policy states that as long as OSHA determines a violation, more than one employer can be liable for a hazardous condition, whether or not an employee was exposed to it. This then, can become a criminal prosecution towards multiple employers in the case of a fatality, injury or violation.
With OSHA’s aggressive use of the application of the General Duty Clause and Multi-Employer Worksite regulations, employers need to be extra careful in protecting themselves from liabilities, especially those posed by contractors, temporary employees, and other employers. By being proactive in these areas, not only will an employer likely reduce injuries and claims, but also reduce the chance for OSHA penalty assessments and inspections.