A new year means a host of new changes to the OSHA regulatory structure. Some companies may see increasing changes as a burden, but these revisions and new rule adoptions come about for one specific reason: they intend to keep employees safer while avoiding past incidents. Any time you wonder why OSHA is so bothersome when it comes to oversight, documentation and compliance, realize the chances are great that a rule change is a direct response to an injury or egregious violation that occurred in the past. That’s right: someone ruined it for everyone.
The point is that, regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, your business has a vested interest in adhering to changes in OSHA regulations for the following reasons.
The most immediate reason to comply with updated OSHA regulations is that OSHA is an agency with punitive capabilities. They “have teeth,” so to speak, in that they can fine businesses who violate their rules. Businesses with severe or repeated infractions may be subject to hefty fines that can now measure up to $127,000 per infraction according to new OSHA fine increases. Since one incident can contain multiple infractions, a business could be facing total fine amounts in the millions of dollars.
On top of these fines, OSHA has the power to prosecute business owners, managers or supervisors if their actions constitute willful or gross negligence. Criminal and civil penalties are both possible in these situations, which can include jail time or other consequences.
OSHA Regulations Encourage Worker Safety
As mentioned before, the intent of OSHA regulations is to save lives and prevent injuries. While some practices may seem excessive or not necessary for your line of work, realize again that “someone ruined it for everybody,” and that the change may be a direct response to a fatality or injury that once occurred.
In the case of practices like Lockout/Tagout, these programs are the result of diligent worker safety research and pilot programs to decide on the best course of action to take that will prevent unwanted incidents. These programs can often back their regulatory intent with statistical proof that they can save lives.
Therefore, understand OSHA rules as a way to help you protect the well-being of the workers you care about and who form the backbone of your industry.
Company Image and Brand Health
OSHA penalties do not necessarily end when the fines are paid. Media coverage stating a particular company was found in multiple violations of OSHA standards can be damaging to that company’s reputation. Suddenly, less people want to offer them contracts, and new skilled workers are afraid to join their ranks.
Worse, discovery of OSHA penalties may form the basis of subsequent legal action. For instance, a client paying a commercial construction firm for work may sue that firm if they find out unsafe practices were being conducted on the premises. OSHA officials can even provide testimony weakening the character of employers that engage in unsafe practices.
Finally, OSHA violations can compromise your ability to file insurance claims or receive the needed worker’s compensation coverage for employees. Review your insurance policies to see whether OSHA violations can have an effect on premiums or policy eligibility as a whole.