In its effort to make work environments safer in California and elsewhere, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made some significant changes to its policies. The reforms took effect this summer, and some businesses may already be feeling the effects. OSHA hopes those effects are in the form of reduction in workplace accidents, but some employers may be feeling it in the wallet.
Fines and penalties for violating OSHA safety rules have increased substantially under the revised provisions. In fact, those who do not comply may see a 78 percent increase in penalty fines, averaging between $30,000 and $60,000 for most offenders. Those who repeatedly defy OSHA regulations may pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition to fines and inspections, OSHA has also added programs to protect workers from preventable accidents, such as falls, electrocution and weather-related illnesses.
The federal agency also expects to perform more inspections, which are often instigated when an employee reports a hazard in the workplace. New rules prevent an employer from punishing a worker who reports a hazard or injury. Even blanket drug testing after incidents may be considered retaliatory, and employers are urged to limit those tests to specific situations. Safety bonuses may also be retaliatory or make employees reluctant to report injuries for fear of losing the bonus. Bosses are encouraged to re-examine their programs for safety incentives.
Workplace accidents have long-reaching consequences in California and other states. It behooves an employer to make safety a priority for the financial well-being of the business, but mostly for the protection of the workers. Nevertheless, when workers are injured on the job, they often contact an attorney to make sure their rights are protected and they receive the workers' compensation they deserve.
Source: securityinfowatch.com, "Big Changes for OSHA", James L. Curtis, Oct. 14, 2016