Starting in 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the ability to impose larger fines for the first time in more than 25 years, thanks to a provision in the most recent budget deal.
A 1990 law restricted OSHA from increasing its penalties to account for inflation. But on November 2, President Barack Obama signed the new budget into law, which contained an amendment that strikes the exemption. This allows OSHA to increase its penalties to account for current inflation levels, which could potentially raise fines about 80 percent. This would increase the maximum penalty for a willful offense from the current $70,000 to around $127,000. OSHA will also now be allowed, for the first time, to adjust its penalty levels based on inflation year after year.
OSHA is a Federal agency, part of the U.S. Department of Labor that establishes issues and enforces national workplace safety regulations. Its purpose is to ensure that employers provide their employees a place of employment free from hazards. OSHA was created in 1970 by the Occupation Safety and Health Act.
(Photo courtesy of: www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/)
There are 21 states that manage their own OSHA approved State Plans, which cover private, state, and local government workplaces. These State Plans need to, at the bare minimum, cover the standards set by OSHA at the federal level.
Over the past several years some of the State Plans granted variances from Rule 32, which covers Aerial Work Platforms. They allow companies alternative methods to gain additional height on scissor lifts using properly secured planks.
Since manufacturers like Man Lift have begun designing and manufacturing new platform attachments that are available to employers for accessing those “hard to reach” areas, these State Plans are rethinking these alternative methods in order to gain the extra height.
For example MIOSHA, the OSHA State Plan for Michigan, retracted their variances to Rule 32 in August 2015, stating that “In light of these new products, variances from Rules 3216 (3) and 3216 (4) are no longer needed when using manufacturer-approved attachments and equipment.
Because of products such as the Man Lift SHU (Step Higher Unrestricted) these OSHA organizations are able to make sure employees are being protected as well as possible. In light of the latest changes to OSHA fines it’s more important than ever for employers to offer the safest alternatives for protecting their employees.
The SHU is OSHA compliant, meaning it also follows the regulations set by OSHA for access equipment. It’s tested, has fall arrest points and has acquired permission from the manufacturers of the scissor lifts that the SHU is 100% acceptable as an attachment for the lift platform.
(Images Courtesy of: http://www.thevillageslink.com/osha/materialhandling/scissor_pix.htm / http://www.masoncontractors.org/2013/04/29/boom-lifts-scissor-lifts-and-mast-climbers-liability-webinar/)
Although it’s hard for most small businesses to swallow an 80 percent increase in the fines for violating the rules, hopefully the larger fines will prompt businesses to take the proper precautions to avoid them.