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OSHA and MSHA to Hike Civil Penalties

Adele L. Abrams, Esq., CMSP, ASSP Federal Representative
Jan 16, 2019

U.S. Department of Labor plans to initiate significant hikes in the civil penalties imposed by OSHA and MSHA. For OSHA, the maximum increases to $132,598 (from $129,336) for willful and repeat violations, while the mandatory minimum penalty is now $9,472. Regular "serious" and “other than serious” citations, as well as failure to abate situations, will carry a new maximum fine of $13,260 (up from $12,934).

The new maximum for MSHA civil penalties for regular assessments is $72,620, while the maximum for flagrant violations increases to $266,275. The mandatory minimum fine for failing to report a fatality or serious injury within 15 minutes was hiked to $6,052, while penalties for failing to abate a violation can now reach $7,867 per day.

Unlike OSHA, MSHA can issue personal penalties to miners for certain transgressions, such as smoking in an underground gassy mine or near flammables. The new penalty for those violations is $332. However, MSHA can also issue personal penalties to agents of management, including hourly trainers or workplace examiners, of up to $72,620. These citations occur where a miner knew or should have known of a violation (or personally participated in it, such as failing to wear PPE), failed to initiate corrective action and has authority to direct the workforce in some manner.

All statutory penalty mandates are binding on the agencies at the first stage, when they propose their penalties as citations are issued. However, if a case is contested and litigated, the respective review commission judges have “de novo” penalties authority, which means they not bound by the proposed amount or congressional mandate and can adjust the fines as they see fit or as agreed upon by the parties in settlement. 

The increases will take affect once the government shutdown ends and they can be published in the Federal Register.

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