The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently been criticized in the media for a perceived lack of enforcement and low penalty amounts, but as an employer you should not let your guard down—OSHA and other federal agencies still have the ability to issue significant civil penalties and bring criminal charges. Recently, an auto parts manufacturing plant in East Alabama pleaded guilty to a willful violation of OSHA regulations that caused the death of an employee. Even with the plea agreement, they will be forced to pay $1.5 million in criminal penalties and restitution, enter an enhanced safety compliance plan, and submit to 3 years of probation and increased oversight from OSHA. Based on the e-mails referenced in the attached plea agreement, there was the potential to incur penalties of $7,000/day for the continuing failure to correct the violation, amounting to nearly $5 million in additional penalty. This is only an example of the significant financial penalties associated with non-compliance, and especially continued non-compliance.
This plea agreement highlights the importance of employee safety compliance and the potential severity of a federal inspection or investigation. Given the pandemic, it is worth noting that nearly all employers have new employee safety obligations and will likely face OSHA reporting and recordkeeping questions if an employee gets sick. Whether you have a restaurant, a manufacturing plant, or anything in between, your safety requirements have probably changed and need to be followed. OSHA has become much more active in the last few months to enforce these obligations and is no longer limiting its enforcement efforts to nursing homes and hospitals.
We have experience and can help you with general compliance, navigating an OSHA inspection, and if violations are found, contesting citations and defending criminal charges. As always, it pays to have a plan and not to take regulatory obligations lightly.
Written By: Weathers Bolt
We are available to address your individual circumstances and questions.
This information is not intended to provide legal advice, and no legal or business decision should be based on its content. No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers. Read full disclaimer.