OSHA Increases Penalties and Changes Electronic Reporting

Man in suit pressing digital envelope Although we all know the wheels of progress turn slowly, especially at the federal government level, there are occasionally a few updates for those concerned with OSHA regulation.  We seemed to have gotten a two-for-one deal this week from OSHA.

First, OSHA has once again adjusted their maximum penalties for standards violations.  Effective January 23, 2019 the new maximum penalty for a serious, other-than-serious, or a failure to abate violation is $13,260.  A willful or repeated violation now carries as much as a $132,598 penalty.  As you may recall, these increases are the result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (say that three times fast).  Essentially federal agencies are directed to adjust penalties for inflation each year. 

Although this change does not impact the majority of businesses in the country, for some it may create a stronger deterrent to violating the OSHA standards.  This seems to be a primary benefit although the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of the policy.  The best advice is to put appropriate emphasis on workplace safety with every employee.  Focusing on hazards and controls will lead to safer workplaces which in turn leads to higher employee morale, productivity, and overall wellness.  At the same time it may just reduce the likelihood of incurring an OSHA citation.  To read more about this change check out this resource from the OSHA website.      

Another change announced by OSHA concerns the electronic reporting requirement.  An amendment to this rule was published in the Federal Register on January 25 and eliminates the need for electronic filing of information from the OSHA Form 300 and OSHA Form 301.  Employers effected by the original rule are still required to submit information from the OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). 

A concern for privacy was what motivated this change.  According to an OSHA Trade Release on January 24, “By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers’ injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301. The final rule does not alter an employer’s duty to maintain OSHA Forms 300 and 301 on-site, and OSHA will continue to obtain these forms as needed through inspections and enforcement actions.”

For effected employers (click here for the list by industry), the deadline for electronic submission of the calendar year OSHA 300A is March 2, 2019.  As always, this summary log must be posted in the workplace from February 1 through April 30.  For an additional information regarding the completion of the required recordkeeping check out this OSHA tutorial.   

By Randy Klatt