Higher OSHA Fines To Increase Safety
Dec 2, 2015

LEAD STORY

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will raise penalties for occupational health and safety violations upwards to 80% effective August 1, 2016. Legislation was subtly added to the budget bill signed by President Obama in November. This is the first increase in 25 years.

INCREASED FINES HOPING TO INCREASE SAFETY

OSHA felt the current penalties weren't strong enough to provide adequate incentives. According to the AFL-CIO, the average fine last year for an incident in which a worker died was $7,000, reduced to $5,050 following settlement talks. Indeed, states are also responding to OSHA violations and the increase in fines. The Maine Commissioner of Labor announced employers should invest in workplace safety to avoid OSHA's fine increases. She also agreed when violations are willful or repeated that fines are necessary to send the right message. In California and New York, preventable worker fatalities are leading to manslaughter and other charges against those involved.

THE NUMBERS

Out of the 4,251 worker fatalities in 2014, 20.5% were in construction, with falls accounting for almost 40% of those deaths. Although fines cannot increase for violations that resulted in a worker's death, the maximum fine for the most severe citations might increase in 2016 from $70,000 to $125,000.

ROAD SAFETY - FMCSA'S FINAL RULE

MAKING THE ROADS SAFER

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a Final Rule to help safeguard commercial truck and bus drivers from being compelled to violate federal safety regulations.

WHO'S AFFECTED

Previously FMCSA could only take action against motor carriers, but the new Rule provides FMCSA with the authority to take enforcement action not only against motor carriers, but also against shippers, receivers, and transportation intermediaries. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this Rule allow them to take action against anyone in the transportation chain who knowingly and recklessly jeopardizes the safety of the driver and of the motoring public.

WHAT'S ADDRESSED

The Final Rule addresses three key areas concerning driver coercion into violating safety regulations: procedures for commercial and bus drivers to report incidents of coercion to the FMCSA, steps the agency could take when responding to such allegations, and penalties that may be imposed on entities found to have coerced drivers.

MAKING OUR WAY AROUND THE COUNTRY

LEGISLATORS INVESTIGATING OPT OUT

The National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) announced it will investigate opt out programs after issues brought forth by a ProPublica and NPR report in October. NCOIL is an association of state legislators whose main interest is insurance legislation and regulation and often responsible for insurance legislation in their respective state houses. In their announcement, NCOIL has taken no position on opt out programs but state legislators responsible for the protection of injured workers have significant concerns to the ProPublica/NPR issues and will examine this in 2016.

NY STATE INSURANCE FUND

The New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) announced the release of its electronic Premium Audit Scheduling System (PASS), which allows NYSIF policyholders scheduled for a premium audit to choose a more convenient date and time, or to change the audit location. The system allows customers to reschedule appointments at their convenience and to avoid higher premium charges that result from an estimated audit.

CYBER MONDAY PRECAUTION

Although you don't have to worry about car accidents when you were shopping online on Cyber Monday, don't forget to take precautions against thieves stealing your package when they're dropped off at your home.

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Please contact the authors - Greg McKenna and Cari Miller - and let us know how you liked this week's issue. We look forward to and value your feedback.

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