Starting August 1, OSHA's civil penalty rate structure increases to reflect the consumer price index. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 requires all federal agencies with civil monetary penalties covered in the Act to update their fines. Then, agencies will be required to adjust their penalties annually.
Because OSHA has not updated its fine structure since 1996, the Act allows OSHA to increase maximum fines up to 78 percent. This means top tier files for serious and other-than- serious violations can rise from the current $7,000 max to $12,471. Fines for repeat and willful violations currently capped at $70,000 will increase up to $124,709.
But here's the catch:
Employers inspected before the August 1 effective date but receive an OSHA citation after August 1 will be subject to the new, adjust fine rates. OSHA does not have to use the new fine structure for incidents before the August start date, but it does have that option and will probably use it as a means of showing companies that workplace safety is imperative.
This means if your company has been inspected and found to be unsafe several months ago but you have not yet received a citation and penalty, if the OSHA official paperwork gets to you after August 1 you may face higher fines.
Companies currently undergoing inspections cannot force OSHA to complete their inspections to beat the August 1 rate change. OSHA's advice is to respond as quickly as possible to requests for documentation and site visits.