FEDS RAISE OSHA FINES

Senator Suggests WYO “Get out of the OSHA Business”

The Congressional budget bill that was passed last fall contained an entire section of language that will increase OSHA fines, maximum costs of a “serious” citation could raise from $7,000 to $12,500, while repeat offenses may be fined up to $125,000. The bill also contained provisions to annually adjust fined corresponding with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

A federal rule making process will begin in July 2016 to address the fine increases. The legislation does allow the Assistant Secretary for OSHA to adjust fines downward if there is a finding of economic impact outweighing the benefit of a proposed fine. There will likely be some changes to the proposed fine structure before it is set in stone by August 2016.

OSHA fines are currently proposed to raise by the following amounts:

“Other than Serious” citations: Violations of health and safety that are unlikely to result in serious injury or death would raise from $7,000 to $12,500.

“Serious” citations: violations as a result of serious injury or death in which the employer knew or should have reasonably known about the hazard would raise from $7,000 to $12,500.

“Willful” citations: violations in which the employers knows it is in violation of OSHA standards, is aware of the hazard, and makes no reasonable effort to mitigate the condition would raise from $70,000 to $125,000.

“Repeat” citations: violations for which there has already been an initial charge for the same or similar violation would raise from $70,000 to $125,000.

WYOMING MUST RAISE FINES TO KEEP OSHA PROGRAM UNDER STATE CONTROL

The State of Wyoming retains control of the OSHA program within the state, in order to do so, it is required to have a federally approved OSHA plan, and that plan requires the state to meet federal minimum standards, including fine amounts but allowing the state flexibility for safety programs and enforcement. Wyoming has long been adamant that state fines shall not be in excess of federal fines.

That attitude appears to be continuing through proposed legislation that will be before the Wyoming Legislature. The proposed legislation would do away with setting the federal fine amounts in statute, allowing Wyoming OSHA, under the Department of Workforce Services, to set fine amounts that are not in excess of federal fine amounts. The bill does not introduce new fine categories.

Passage of this bill is required if Wyoming is to continue to manage an OSHA program through the federal OSHA agreement.

Whether Wyoming agrees to raise fines or not, OSHA fines will increase to the federal rates.

READ THE PROPOSED OSHA FINE LEGISLATION HERE
(PLEASE NOTE: The last paragraph, page 4, lines 18 thru 20 were deleted before the Labor Committee passed the bill.)

If this bill does not pass, Wyoming would not be compliant with federal OSHA minimum standards, and in violation of the agreement that allows the State of Wyoming to manage the state OSHA program.
If this bill does not pass, federal OSHA would become the supreme authority on workplace safety in Wyoming.

SENATOR SCOTT SUGGESTS DEFEATING OSHA FINES BILL & “GET OUT OF THE OSHA BUSINESS”

The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Labor Committee recently discussed the proposed OSHA fine legislation, and federal OSHA grants to Wyoming. It was explained that Wyoming far outmatches the minimum required by the OSHA grants, that is, Wyoming puts more money into the program than OSHA requires.

Although Wyoming puts more money into the program than required, many of the employees are still required to complete voluminous federal paperwork. The Department of Workforce Services believes that by taking some folks out of the federal OSHA grant umbrella, they can conduct more safety consultations with less paperwork, while still meeting grant match obligations and not increasing expenditures.

State Senator Charlie Scott (R-Natrona) suggested that maybe it is time for Wyoming to consider “getting out of the OSHA business.” He suggested that industry and labor organizations consider defeating the proposed OSHA fine bill, and dissolving Wyoming’s agreement with OSHA. He suggested that the state may consider running a worker safety program independent of OSHA.

Senator Scott suggested that if constituents do not weigh in on this issue, the OSHA fines bill has a 50/50 chance of going either way, we have a 50/50 chance of becoming a federal OSHA state.

PROPOSAL RAISES NUMEROUS QUESTIONS

The suggestion to defeat the current fine bill, and sever ties with federal OSHA is intriguing, however, it leaves many unanswered questions that will take time to answer.

Whether the proposed OSHA fines bill is passed or defeated, fines will go up. If the legislation is passed the fines will go up and Wyoming will retain control over OSHA programs in the state. If the legislation is defeated, fines will go up, and federal OSHA will take over workplace safety in Wyoming.

What would a federal OSHA program be like in Wyoming? Would we have the same ability to work with federal OSHA to mitigate hazards and to mitigate fines and improve safety through a hearing process?

If the legislation is defeated, would Wyoming retain any type of a workforce safety program? Or will federal OSHA be the only and ultimate workforce safety authority?

Would a Wyoming workforce safety office have the ability to issue fines in addition to federally imposed OSHA fines?

Would Wyoming continue safety training grants and consultation programs?

How much state money would be saved or additional money spent if we were to change the status quo?

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Service will need time to review what the funding cut from losing federal grants would mean to the Wyoming OSHA office, and what programs would need to be restructured or eliminated.

ONCE FEDERAL OSHA TAKES OVER, WILL BE DIFFICULT FOR STATE TO REGAIN CONTROL

Once a state becomes a federal OSHA state, it is very difficult to go back to state management of an OSHA program. This decision is not something to be taken lightly, and frankly, a lot more information is needed before making such a decision, and it should not be made quickly.

WCC URGES CAUTION, PASSAGE OF THE OSHA FINES BILL

OSHA fines will increase whether the proposed legislation passes or fails,and while the Wyoming Construction Coalition would be willing to investigate the proposal of severing ties with federal OSHA, we believe that it will take at least several months to determine the full consequences that this action could have, and until such determinations are made, we do not feel that we have enough information to make an informed decision as to whether severing ties with federal OSHA will benefit workplace safety in Wyoming in any way.

Therefore, we suggest passing the proposed OSHA fines bill, keeping the current OSHA agreement in place, and research the consequences of abandoning the federal OSHA agreement at a later time.

WCC encourages our members to weigh in on this issue before the 2016 Legislative session begins on February 8th.

CONTACT LABOR COMMITTEE MEMBERS HERE

FIND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE HERE

FIND YOUR STATE SENATOR HERE