OSHA is rolling out a Severe Violator Enforcement Program and raising its penalties, if only slightly.

OSHA Announces Severe Violator Enforcement Program

Are we seeing the new face of OSHA? David Michaels said the agency is doing what it can to administratively raise the dollar amounts of its penalties and adopting a new structure for penalty reductions based on the company's employee count.

OSHA announced a Severe Violator Enforcement Program today that will be in effect in 45 days and also said it is administratively raising the dollar value of its penalties, suggesting it would raise them higher still if it could.

"The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is only $7,000 and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000. The average penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000 to an average $3,000 to $4,000," OSHA's news release stated. "Monetary penalties for violations of the OSH Act have been increased only once in 40 years despite inflation. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would raise these penalties, for the first time since 1990, to $12,000 and $250,000, respectively. Future penalty increases would also be tied to inflation. In the meantime, OSHA will focus on outreach in preparation of implementing this new penalty policy."

SVEP replaces OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program. SVEP targets high-emphasis hazards, which are defined as high gravity serious violations of specific fall standards -- 23 such standards are listed in general industry, construction, shipyards, marine terminal, and longshoring -- or standards covered in National Emphasis Programs focused on amputations, combustible dusts, crystalline silica, lead, excavation/trenching, shipbreaking, and process safety management.

The SVEP inspection procedures contained in OSHA's instruction to compliance personnel says a follow-up inspection must be conducted after the citations become final orders in these cases to determine whether the violations were abated or the employer is committing similar violations. "When there are reasonable grounds to believe that compliance problems identified in the initial inspection may be indicative of a broader pattern of non-compliance, OSHA will inspect related sites of the same employer," the instruction states. There will be a SVEP Nationwide inspection list in such cases, with all sites inspected if there are 10 or fewer and sites chosen randomly if there are more.

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