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OSHA fines increasing for the first time in 25 years

Workplaces across the United States have become much safer over the past half-century largely because of regulation and regulating agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition to crafting safety policies and conducting inspections, OSHA can businesses for safety violations, particularly those that have led to workplace accidents and deaths.

The issuance of fines is an important enforcement mechanism because even if a company doesn't care about worker safety, it almost certainly cares about its bottom line. That being said, the fines companies currently face are far less painful than they once would have been, because OSHA has not increased penalty rates since 1990. Thankfully, that is about to change.

According to news sources, OSHA fines will increase starting in August 2016. Initially, they could increase by an estimated 80 percent from their current levels. The significant jump in fines is being called a "catch-up adjustment." After that, specific rates will reportedly be tied to inflation.

In the past year, some 4 million workplace injuries and fatalities were reported across the United States. How many employers had become complacent about workplace safety because the threat of fines was rather insignificant? There's no way to answer this question definitively, but it seems likely that at least some companies made that calculation.

Of course, getting companies to take workplace safety seriously is just the first step in protecting the health and rights of workers. After a workplace injury occurs, many employers (and insurance companies) try to deny valid workers' compensation claims. At that point, the injured worker should seek the help of an experienced attorney right away.

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