Congressional Budget Deal Paves Way for Potential Fine Increases for OSHA

Published November 18, 2015

An amendment included in the budget deal that President Obama signed into law earlier this month would allow OSHA to increase its fines annually based on the consumer price index. OSHA fines have not increased since 1990, and the agency is one of few with civil penalties that do not increase with inflation. The new amendment eliminates the exemption made by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 that has prevented OSHA from increasing its monetary penalties for violations for the last 25 years.

Under the new deal, OSHA would also be allowed to make a one-time “catch-up” adjustment that would increase maximum penalty levels by approximately 80 percent to make up for the lack of increases.

“OSHA is usually a ‘forgotten’ agency on the Hill, so to have this specific inclusion is very unusual,” AIHA Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler explains. “Whether OSHA chooses to increase fines by 82 percent in one step is up for debate. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.”

Trippler notes that federal agencies may not be certain about their funding until Dec. 11, the date by which Congress needs to pass an omnibus spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. He predicts a small increase in total funding for both OSHA and NIOSH, and is “somewhat confident” that NIOSH will retain funding for its Education and Research Centers (ERCs) in the final budget deal, despite the president’s recommendation to cut ERC funding.

For more information, see Trippler’s latest Happenings on the Hill newsletter (AIHA member log-in required).