Employers whose workplace safety incidents are currently being investigated by OSHA are likely to face sharply higher fines, even though the agency’s new penalty structure does not officially change until August 1st. The increased fines were authorized in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and reflect the change in the consumer price index since the last pre-1996 update to the structure up to October 2015. The agency is now also required to adjust its penalties annually based on the index. The Act permits OSHA to increase maximum fines by up to 78 percent, meaning that the existing $70,000 cap for repeat and willful violations could increase to $124,709, while the top fines for serious and other-than-serious violations could rise to $12,471 from the current $7,000 maximum. The agency recently clarified that the new penalties will apply to citations issued after August 1st, regardless of the date of inspection; this will potentially expose every employer currently under investigation.
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