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New OSHA Guidance Addresses Workplace Safety, Enforces Stronger Penalties

Thursday, March 2, 2023
Chris Pfeiffer
OSHA workplace safety

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new enforcement guidance to address workplace safety.

Starting on March 27, OSHA will substantially increase penalties for employers who allegedly put “profit over safety.” This is in an effort to prevent employers from repeatedly exposing workers to life-threatening hazards or failing to comply with certain workplace safety and health requirements.

OSHA Regional Administrators and Area Office Directors now have the authority to cite certain violations as “instance-by-instance citations.” These are defined as cases where the agency identifies “high-gravity” serious violations of OSHA standards specific to certain conditions where the rule’s language supports a citation for each instance of non-compliance. Conditions include lockout/tagout, machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, falls, trenching and for cases with other-than-serious violations specific to recordkeeping.

The change is intended to ensure OSHA personnel are applying the full authority of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, where increased citations are needed to discourage non-compliance. The new guidance covers enforcement activity in general industry, agriculture, maritime and construction industries. The current policy has existed since 1990 and applies only to egregious willful citations.

In a second action, OSHA has reminded its Regional Administrators and Area Directors of their authority not to group violations and instead cite them separately to more effectively encourage employers to comply with the intent of the OSH Act.

“Smart, impactful enforcement means using all the tools available to us when an employer ‘doesn’t get it’ and will respond to only additional deterrence in the form of increased citations and penalties,” explained Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health. “This is intended to be a targeted strategy for those employers who repeatedly choose to put profits before their employees’ safety, health and wellbeing. Employers who callously view injured or sickened workers simply as a cost of doing business will face more serious consequences.”

These enforcement guidance changes are important tools to help deter employers from disregarding their responsibilities to protect workers and ensure compliance with OSHA standards and regulations.

Existing guidance on instance-by-instance citations is outlined in the OSHA Field Operations Manual and CPL 02-00-080, “Handling of Cases to be Proposed for Violation-by-Violation Penalties.”

For more information, please contact Chris Pfeiffer or your designated Horton Safety Consultant. Horton Safety Consultants offer extensive services only accessible to clients.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.