By Bruce Rolfsen
Small employers who face fines for violating safety and health standards may be eligible for a greater penalty reduction under a new provision that will take effect April 1, Richard Fairfax, a deputy assistant labor secretary at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, announced March 27.
The provision makes employers with 25 or fewer workers eligible for a penalty reduction of up to 60 percent if they take acceptable steps to mitigate the violations, Fairfax told a meeting of the Textile Rental Services Association of America.
The previous penalty reduction limit of 40 percent was set in October 2010 when OSHA announced several changes to how penalties are calculated and the reductions OSHA area directors and other officials are allowed to approve for employers who do not contest the penalties and agree to correct cited violations (40 OSHR 843, 10/14/10).
By increasing the maximum reduction to 60 percent, OSHA is returning to the limit in place prior to the October 2010 change.
The change was brought about by a continuing review of penalty policies. “We've been evaluating it all along,” Fairfax told BNA after the speech.
Fairfax is OSHA's highest-ranking career employee, starting with the agency in 1978. As deputy assistant secretary, a post he has held since 2010, Fairfax oversees OSHA's regional offices and the directorates of enforcement and construction.
OSHA also continues to review its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, Fairfax said.
The program, launched in June 2010, imposes tough enforcement and sanctions on employers accused of multiple willful and repeat violations, according to the program's guidance. Employers designated as severe violators are subject to follow-up and corporate-wide inspections, in addition to financial penalties. As of Jan. 1, more than 260 establishments had been placed in the program, OSHA records show.
“We're not going to get rid of it because it generates more compliance that other things we do, in my mind,” Fairfax told the audience.
However, Fairfax does want to define how employers can exit the program.
“Right now, there is no way for an employer to get off of the program, so we are trying to figure out a way, the steps, an employer must do so they can get off the program,” he said. “I don't think they should be there permanently. … I think we're fairly close on that avenue.”
Fairfax said work on developing the injury and illness prevention program standard continues (See related article)(41 OSHR 1092, 12/22/11).
The next step out of OSHA is likely to be an “enforcement paper” explaining how the standard would be applied and violations determined, Fairfax said.
Many people mistakenly believe OSHA will use the standard to double-penalize employers, once for violating the I2P2 standard and once for the core violation. That is not OSHA's intent, he said.
The enforcement white paper should be available before the proposed standard's Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) hearings are held later this year (42 OSHR 169, 2/23/12).
Fairfax acknowledged the election year could influence the standard's progress.
“All that being said, as you know this is an election year, and who knows what will happen or how far will we be able to get on this, but we are working on it,” he said.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)