How to Manage Adjusted OSHA Workplace Safety Violation Penalties

Maggie Wenthe

Construction hats

On August 1, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) increased maximum civil penalties for workplace safety violations by 78% to keep up with the cost of inflation in alignment with the Consumer Price Index.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act directed executive agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor, to adjust their civil monetary penalties for inflation every year. The Department of Labor published two interim final rules to adjust its penalties for inflation.

Specifically, the top penalty for serious violations will now rise from $7,000 to $12,471, while the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709. According to OSHA, the maximum penalties were last updated in 1990.

Here’s what you should know about how the new workplace safety violation penalty increases will affect you.

Who Is Affected Most

According to Construction Dive, “The construction industry will see a major impact as the result of this penalty increase, as construction fatalities accounted for 20.6% of all total private industry fatalities last year, according to the [Bureau of Labor Statistics].”

The ruling will impact many other industries similarly, including healthcare, manufacturing and food service.

The Impact

If organizations that have incurred safety violations in the past continue to repeat infractions, they will experience a significant fine increase. Take the fines accumulated last year and basically double them—still affordable? Probably not. That’s where a safety incentive program can help.

How You Can Use Motivation to Impact Safety Compliance

Because your people (all people, for that matter) are motivated differently—some more intrinsically; others more extrinsically—you can use motivation to your advantage. How? By utilizing the tactics that will motivate your employees to demonstrate safety-compliant behavior.

Already implemented safety initiatives to encourage OSHA compliance? It doesn’t mean employees are paying attention. And it doesn’t mean they understand. Intrinsically, your people need a sound reason to comply—and a safety incentive is reinforcement of a safety program, driving awareness and creating rationale. 

Extrinsically, tangible rewards and meaningful experiences encourage compliance and overall workplace wellbeing. A safety incentive will encourage employees to disclose potential safety violations, emphasize safety behaviors and reward employees who exemplify them.

Budget an issue? Rethink it. By combining multiple employee programs onto one platform, you can streamline expenses, not to mention administration. Employees benefit too, as they gain the ability to pool points across programs in order to earn larger, more meaningful rewards.

Safety programs work. When reinforced properly, such as through a safety incentive, safety violations decreased 17% in the first year of the program for this food service organization. And right now, there’s more incentive than ever to ensure you’re compliant—the fines are not cheap.

Looking Ahead

You’ve got two choices: be proactive and spend your funding up front to prevent unsafe behaviors while also improving organizational culture and employee engagement, or suffer on the back end with stiffer penalties and fees, which ultimately creates a negative impact on employee engagement and organizational culture.

Ultimately, a safety incentive that aligns and motivates your people helps create an overall culture of safety within your workplace.

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie strives to help the world understand the power behind personalized motivation that aligns people with business goals to drive powerful results. As the leader of Marketing Strategy at ITA Group, she analyzes market trends to develop world-class solutions that help Fortune 1000 companies motivate and engage their employees, channel partners and customers. She is certified through the Incentive Marketing Association, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, as well as Pragmatic Marketing Level VI. Between marketing and three little boys, Maggie doesn't have free time. But when she can find a few minutes, she loves listening to audiobooks on marketing, business and sci fi thrillers.