Congress Increases OSHA Fine Schedule 80%

On November 2, 2015, President Obama signed the Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA), which includes an obscure provision that substantially increases the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”) penalty schedule. Specifically, Section 701 of the BBA removed a 1990 restriction that had exempted the OSH Act penalty structure from the automatic annual adjustments for inflation that had been established by the Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990. Effective August 2016, OSH Act penalties will increase by roughly 80% to account for inflation since 1990:


Maximum Serious Citation
2015 Classification  $7,000.00
2016 Classification (est.) $12,700.00

Maximum Repeat Citation

2015 Classification $70,000.00
2016 Classification (est.) $127,000.00

Maximum Willful Citation

2015 Classification $70,000.00
2016 Classification (est.) $127,000.00


In future years, based upon inflation, OSHA will be “permitted” to annually re-adjust penalty levels.

In addition to issuance of traditional citations, OSHA retains its right to issue citations under its Multi-Employer Citation Policy, its Instance by Instance Citation Policy, and its Egregious and Severe Violator Penalty Policies. Penalties issued under these policies will also increase 80%.

To minimize the impact of these sizeable increases, employers should focus on compliance with the OSHA Act and its safety and health standards.

  • Know the OSHA standards applicable to your business.
  • Regularly inspect worksites and equipment. Immediately abate hazards.
  • Train employees in hazard recognition and OSH Act standards.
  • Test to minimize exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Use engineering and administrative controls to eliminate or minimize exposure.
  • Provide personal protective equipment.
  • Enforce your health and safety rules.
  • Be alert for changing conditions.
  • Train management in how to respond to an OSHA inspection. If cited, know your rights to preserve your appeal.