The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking aim at the nation’s most dangerous employers with a new Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).
The new program, which will take effect by early June, focuses OSHA enforcement resources on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law.
This supplemental enforcement tool includes stiffer penalties; increased OSHA inspections and mandatory follow-up inspections in these worksites; and inspections of other worksites of the same employer, where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf.
Tens of thousands die from workplace disease and more than 4.6 million workers are seriously injured on the job annually.
"For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA's requirements," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, David Michaels. "Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees."
"SVEP will help OSHA concentrate its efforts on those repeatedly recalcitrant employers who fail to meet their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It will include a more intense examination of an employer's practices for systemic problems that would trigger additional mandatory inspections," said Michaels.
Last year, OSHA assembled a work group to evaluate its penalty policies and found that currently assessed penalties were too low to have an adequate deterrent effect. Based on the group's recommendations, several administrative changes are being made to the penalty calculation system outlined in the agency's Field Operations Manual. The penalty changes will increase the overall dollar amount of all penalties while maintaining OSHA's policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith.
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. 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. For more information on the penalty policy, visit http://www.osha.gov/dep/penalty-change-memo.pdf.