What Does the New OSHA® “Look Back” Ruling Mean for Repeat Violations?

OSHA-Look-Back-Blog-1

Fines are on the rise, an agency is on a mission, and a landmark court decision is shaking everything up. What does all this mean for you? If OSHA® determines your business is a “repeat violator,” it could cost you an enormous amount in fines – regardless of when the violations occurred.

Let’s take a closer look at the case that’s causing a stir across nearly every industry.

What the new court ruling means for repeat violators

The case of Triumph Construction Corp. v. Sec. of Labor can get a bit confusing at times, but here’s a very brief breakdown of the areas you need to know.

  • In 2014, OSHA found Triumph to be guilty of an excavation-related violation
  • At the time, OSHA’s Field Operations Manual (FOM) provided a three-year “look back” period to determine if a violation constituted as being repeat
  • More than five years had passed since Triumph’s most recent excavation-related citation
  • OSHA cited the company with a repeat violation anyway, despite Triumph being outside of OSHA’s own Field Operations Manual’s guideline

As a result, Triumph sued – and lost – twice. The court found that OSHA’s decision to include citations beyond the defined period set out in the FOM “does not impose a legal limitation that restricts OSHA’s ability to establish repeat violations.” The latest court ruling, in effect, says OSHA has an indefinite amount of time to deem any violation as repeat.

And that means companies can face massive penalties.

The cost of repeat citations

Repeat citations will now cost companies more than ever thanks to a 2% increase in civil penalties for violations that went into effect in January of this year. The Department of Labor’s decision to increase maximum penalties was in direct response to the Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015, which dictates all agencies under the department’s purview must adjust for inflation by January 15 of each year.

While violations deemed “Serious” or “Other-than-Serious” increased by a maximum $319 to $12,934 per offense, the maximum for “Repeat” violations skyrocketed to nearly $130,000 per offense.

The most-cited violations

Curious as to which violations OSHA targets most? Each year, the agency releases a list of their most-cited violations, and 2017’s proved to be a bit of a shake-up. Perhaps the most notable change was the inclusion of “Fall Protection - Training Requirements (1926.503) which knocked “Electrical - General” from the 2016 list.

The full list includes:

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501)
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451)
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
  6. Ladders (1926.1053)
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)
  8. Machine Guarding (1910.212)
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503)
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305)

Reduce your chances of being fined

Is your company looking for a way to improve safety, boost your bottom line, and reduce the chances of receiving an OSHA citation? Then your business might benefit from developing a Safegagement™ strategy.

You’ve probably heard of Safegagement, even if you don’t know exactly what it means. In short, it’s a simple formula that could save your company a fortune: Safety + Engagement = Safegagement. What makes Safegagement different?

Many safety programs on the market choose to focus on lagging, not leading indicators. This means they report accidents only after they happen, instead of identifying potential risks before an accident occurs. Safegagement emphasizes being proactive and rewarding behavior that creates a safer environment. This is why every plan C.A. Short Company offers is 100% OSHA-compliant.

Would you like to learn more? A great place to start is our complimentary ebook, Safegagement: Creating Safe Companies That Thrive. If you’d like additional information, or have a question about anything you may have read, please reach out today!

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At C. A. Short, we are your partner for increased employee engagement resulting in increased performance outcomes to grow your bottom line. Our process and research-based platform help you engage your team in order to increase your bottom line, motivate your staff to the benefit of the entire organization, and reward your people for the positive changes they make. To request a Complimentary Consultation, please click here. 

Topics: OSHA Compliant Safety Incentives, OSHA Fines

Jeff Ross, CPA, CRP, CSM

About the Author
Jeff Ross, CPA, CRP, CSM

CEO & CFO
Mr. Ross, a certified public accountant, joined the C.A. Short Company as its controller in June 1993 and was named Chief Financial Officer in November 1996. From there, Jeff was promoted to President and Chief Financial Officer, and in 2017, was appointed CEO. Before joining C.A. Short Company, Ross was employed as an accountant by Hausser + Taylor, a large public accounting and consulting firm. Jeff presently serves on the Board of Directors of 2XSalt Ministries, Charlotte, NC and is a member of North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Ross graduated from The Ohio State University with Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1989.

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