Employers Beware: Federal Budget Act Dramatically Increases OSHA Fines

Compliance Violation Two Way Street Signs Direction Follow Rules

On November 2, 2015, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act into law. Tucked away into the act was a provision that will have significant repercussions for roofing contractors. This comes on the heels of a dramatic increase under the current administration in the number of OSHA inspections – and, as a result, citations – issued to roofers.

Bigger Penalties Go Into Effect Mid-2016

Since 1990, the maximum penalties associated with OSHA violations have been exempt from an inflation provision that raises fines for violations of federal statutes every four years. The new law lifts the OSHA exemption, and requires each agency to adjust penalties on an annual basis. The initial OSHA adjustment could be a catch-up adjustment that accounts for inflation between October 1990 and October 2015 – resulting in a penalty increase of as much as 82%. As an example, OSHA’s minimum contractor fine for serious-classified violations could increase from $7,000 to roughly $12,500 per violation, and for repeat and willful violations from $70,000 to an estimated $125,000 per violation.

These budget changes take effect July 1, 2016, with the heavier penalties for all states regulated by federal OSHA expected to take effect on or before August 1, 2016. After the first adjustment to the OSHA penalties, employers can expect to see a yearly penalty increase beginning in 2017.

Trent Cotney, P.A., a board-certified construction lawyer in Tampa, FL, noted that the dramatic and sudden increase in OSHA penalties could have a very detrimental effect on the construction industry and adversely affect many roofing contractors. “To address these issues, I recommend that roofing contractors participate in local, state and national roofing associations to lobby for changes to OSHA inspections and enforcement,” Cotney said. “Many states have also developed their own safety programs using federal guidelines and have opted out of federal OSHA enforcement. A state-centralized safety commission may have more accountability than the current federal Department of Labor.”

For more information about these changes, contact Mr. Cotney at (813) 579-3278 or visit www.trentcotney.com.

The information contained in this article is for general educational information only.  This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Trent Cotney is Florida Bar Certified in Construction Law, General Counsel and a director of the Florida Roofing Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors Association (FRSA), a director of the West Coast Roofing Contractors Association (WCRCA), and a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA) and several other FRSA affiliates.