What Will Remain The Same

With the uncertainty of the pandemic and the ever changing status of the country, one aspect will remain constant the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) mission remains “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.”

OSHA’s Annual Increase in Penalty Amounts

Until six years ago, OSHA had not raised their penalty amounts since 1990. Now, with the Inflation Adjustment Act, OSHA is required to annually adjust penalty amounts by January 15th. Fines increased by approximately 80% on August 1, 2016 and are adjusted annually moving forward. Listed below are the current OSHA penalty amounts for 2021. Please note that states that operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Plans are required to adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s and may differ from the information stated below.

  • Serious Violations – $13,653 Per Violation (Max)
  • Other-Than-Serious – $13,653 Per Violation (Max)
  • Posting Requirements – $13,653 Per Violation (Max)
  • Failure to Abate (Fix) – $13,653 Per Violation (Max)
  • Willful or Repeated – $13,653 Per Violation

The Biden Administration Is Looking To Implement OSHA Standards Focusing On:

  • Heat stress
  • A permeant infectious disease standard
  • Tree care
  • A workplace violence in health care in addition to emergency response/preparedness

How COVID-19 Safety Violations Are Being Cited Now

Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, employers must keep employees safe from work related safety & health issues including the Coronavirus. This includes protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 in the work environment.

Recordkeeping for COVID-19 

Although the virus is affecting so many people in different ways, OSHA still considers COVID-19 to be a recordable illness, similar to all other illnesses. If you have an employee who misses work due to COVID-19, you would be responsible for recording the illness on your 300 log under the following circumstances:

  1. The illness is confirmed to be COVID-19
  2. The illness is confirmed to be work-related, meaning the employer can confirm the illness was contracted in the work environment, and not outside of work
  3. The illness meets the normal recording criteria under the recordkeeping standard such as medical treatment beyond First Aid, days away from work, etc.

What Else Will The Biden Administration Focus On?

The Biden Administration is expected to not only focus on developing standards, but also looking to essentially rollback requirements that were initially a part of the Trump Administration’s de-regulatory agenda. A few of the items that may be prioritized to be reviewed again includes the following:

  • OSHA press releases that announce citations issued for a specific employer
  • Electronic recordkeeping requirements
  • Enforcement of OSHA’s anti-retaliation rule

Will there be an increase in enforcement in OSHA to ensure that the new requirements are being followed?

According to the National Employment Law Project, the number of OSHA inspections during the first three years of the Trump administration is less than any three-year period under the Obama and Bush administrations. Additionally, OSHA had the lowest number of compliance officers on staff in the last 40 years. It’s difficult to tell exactly how the Biden Administration will handle enforcement until permanent positions within OSHA are filled. In the Trump Administration, there was no head of OSHA after nominee, Scott Mungo decided to withdraw his name from consideration. The Biden Administration is also looking to restore advisory construction safety and health, maritime, and general industry safety advisory committees as an early goal so they can meet regularly and provide input. In return, this could mean added enforcement along with additional cooperative programs, alliances, and partnerships.