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OSHA lays out penalty changes

December 13, 2011

Oregon OSHA Proposes Changes to Penalty Structure
By J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largests business advocate

Oregon OSHA is currently discussing several proposed changes in its penalty structure. The agency intends to adopt several changes by the end of 2011 and have them take effect early in 2012, pending comments from employers and the public. Some of the proposed changes would have the effect of raising the penalties assessed against employers for violations.Comments from the public will be taken until close of business on December 14, 2011.

Among the changes that OSHA intends to implement includes:

— Increasing the difference between penalties against small and large employers, giving small employers much larger penalty reductions of up to 60% instead of the current 10%;
— A lower base penalty would be available in recognition of an employer’s good faith efforts prior to the inspection. However, this would be at the discretion of the agency;
— Ending the current penalty reduction given to employers who immediately fix violations. Currently, OSHA offers a 30% reduction in the penalty amount if the violation is fixed at time of inspection;
— Reducing the 35% penalty reduction given to employers with better-than-average history of injuries and illnesses to 10%;
— Raising the base penalty amounts for violations that could result in death. For instance, a violation that has a high likelihood of resulting in the death of an employee under the proposal would be assessed a $7,000 fine – up from $5,000.

AOI’s current policy positions include a statement in opposition to increased penalties for employers.

However, this package of changes to OR-OSHA’s penalty structure includes some increases, and some decreases – particularly for small employers – which makes the package close to revenue neutral.

AOI will review the proposed changes in its Employment Practices Steering Committee and submit comment to OSHA.

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