Play it safe: OSHA fines to increase dramatically by summer

NALP logo copyNow is the time for landscapers to implement or improve their safety and health programs, because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is raising its violation penalties.

By August, OSHA fines could increase by as much as 80 percent. The increases will result from a congressional budget agreement allowing OSHA to adjust penalty amounts to account for inflation over the past 25 years.

The average fine for a serious violation is $1,972 right now, according to the AFL-CIO. The new adjusted average would be $3,549. OSHA’s median penalty for a worker death is $5,050 currently, but that will rise to $9,090.

“It’s progress,” said Peg Seminario, who directs workplace-safety policy for unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO, in an interview with Evolved Safety. “It’s bringing the penalties for worker-safety violations up to date. Increasing OSHA penalties has been considered and discussed, but never implemented, during budget negotiations in past years. Increased penalties will be particularly important where there are widespread serious or willful violations.”

The National Association of Landscape Professionals’ safety adviser, Sam Steel, offers a three-step process for landscapers on how to create an effective safety and health program:

Step 1 – Planning

  • Establish policies that are relevant to business operations and supported by company management.
  • Identify workplace hazards that create an unacceptable level of risk for employees, customers, vendors and visitors.
  • Educate yourself and your employees about local, state and federal standards and regulations.

Step 2 – Implementing

  • Use best practices and principles that serve as a prevention approach to reducing or eliminating exposures.
  • Seek out and use assessment tools that have been proven in many industries to control workplace hazards.
  • Use properly timed and selected training methods and resources.

Step 3 – Evaluation

  • Gauge the effectiveness of the polices, procedures and training that is being developed and presented.
  • Assess the amount of time being allocated to training and whether it needs to be increased or decreased.
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