New OSHA Fine Increases Can Have Big Impacts On Your Business

HebertPosted by Jayson Hebert, WCP

Beginning August 1, 2016 the cost for failure to provide a work place “free from recognized hazards,” just got more expensive for employers.  

For the last 25 years, OSHA penalties have remained unchanged.  Since 1990, OSHA has been specifically exempted from a law which required federal agencies to raise their fines to keep pace with inflation.  This has caused fines to remain static. However, this exemption was eliminated in November 2015 when President Obama signed the budget bill approving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to increase penalties.  Penalties are now adjusted to compensate for the cost of living increases since last adjusted in 1990.

The original OSH Act of 1970 specified that the maximum penalty for a serious violation would be $1,000, and the maximum penalty for a willful violation at $10,000.  In 1990, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act increased serious violations to $7,000 and willful violations to $70,000.  Due to the rate of inflation since the last adjustment, the first adjustment has dramatically increased fines.  The change represents a 78.2% increase in penalties and became effective on August 1, 2016. 

Adjustment to Penalties:

Photo 1

The maximum penalty for "serious," "other-than-serious" and "posting requirement" violations jumps 78% from the current $7,000 fine to $12,471.  For "failure to abate" violations, fines jump to $12,471 per day and if violations are deemed "willful" or "repeated," employers are facing a $54,709 increase in the maximum fine, from $70,000 to $124,709, according to OSHA.

Moving forward, OSHA will also be required to implement annual cost of living increases by January 15 of each year to keep up with the pace of inflation. 

How to Prepare:

Top 10 "serious" violations, fiscal year 2015:

Photo 2

 Top 10 "willful" violations, fiscal year 2015:

Photo 3

  • Conduct a proactive safety inspection of your facility with a focus on compliance issues. Contact your MEMIC Safety Management Consultant or your local OSHA Safety and Health Consultation Service for assistance. 
  • Review OSHA’s “Training Requirements in OSHA Standards” publication and compare against your training programs to ensure that each program meets the required components and frequency for safety exposures within your business.
  • Increase OSHA regulatory knowledge by enrolling employees in an OSHA 10 or 30 Hour Outreach Training Program. View upcoming MEMIC Workshops and Webinars  or state resources like Maine SafetyWorks for upcoming class offerings.

Taking these steps will demonstrate an employer’s commitment to employee health and safety as well as reduce the likelihood of receiving an OSHA citation.


Core Strength Comes From Deep Inside

As mentioned in a previous post, core strengthening is known to help build up the muscles that support the spine, as well as improve one’s balance. In other words, people with a stronger core have a better chance of avoiding common mishaps such as trips, slips and falls. Jobs that involved twisting, lifting and standing, depend heavily on the muscles that make up the core, as balance is required for all of these types of movements. Without a strong core, acts such as these can become both difficult and painful for workers. It is even necessary for workers who sit at desks to have a strong core in order to maintain good posture. If slumping occurs too often it can cause wear and tear on the spine, so practicing proper posture is important if you want to avoid aches and pains as well.

When it comes to strengthening your core, it is important to first know what it consists of in order to better understand how it can be improved, as well as why it should be. There are three different layers of muscle that make up the core; the upper abdominals (abs), the side muscles (obliques) and a deeper layer of muscle. Although all of the muscles that make up the core are important, the deep muscles are responsible for the majority of the functions the core is needed for. It is the deep muscle group that gives you the ability to balance, supports your spine and much more.

Illu_trunk_core-muscles

When working out, there is a difference between an ab workout and a core workout. In an ab workout you are only targeting the front side of the body, which means that the deep muscles are not getting as much use. In a core workout, however, you are targeting not only the front of your body but also the deep muscles and the erector spinae, which are the muscles that make up your back and glutes. An easy way to change an ab workout into a core workout is by including the action of stabilizing your body into the exercises. You can do this by utilizing a fitness ball when performing crunches for example, or by using a BOSU ball for lunges. Some other simple exercises that you can do to work the core are planks, side planks, supermans and the bridge. Exercises and instructions from Vanderbilt University Medical Center on how to strengthen the core can be found here.

The strength of the core is imperative for even the littlest tasks that the body executes. It is important to keep it fit in order to preserve the body for a longer period of time, and not cause unnecessary stiffness and soreness of the muscles. Performing core exercises can make everyday actions easier, as well as decrease the severity and frequency of mishaps. So make it a priority to work on your core even if it is only for ten minutes a day, it’s a terrific way to enhance your stretch breaks.

For more information on material handling, safe lifting and proper posture, check out the resources available to policyholders in the MEMIC Safety Director.


What You Should Know About Zika Virus

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

With the emergence of “home grown” Zika virus in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties of Florida, OSHA has recently posted interim guidance for protecting workers from occupational exposure to Zika virus.  First identified in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda, cases of Zika virus infection emerged in 2015 in the Americas and the Caribbean.  The virus is spread by Aedes species mosquitoes which are mostly concentrated in temperate climates.  Transmission of the Zika virus primarily occurs from the bite of an infected mosquito but can also occur from direct contact with infectious blood or bodily fluid and from an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy and delivery.  Infection during pregnancy can cause brain abnormalities such as microcephaly.  Symptoms of infection typically last seven days and include fever, headache, joint pain, rash, and red or pink eyes.

The Control and Prevention section of OSHA’s interim guidance provides recommended actions for outdoor workers, healthcare and laboratory workers, and mosquito control workers.  Additionally, information is provided on the safe use of insect repellents along with reference to the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard, personal protective equipment standards, and respiratory protection standard.  Recommended actions for outdoor workers include:

  • Using insect repellent
  • Wearing light-weight clothing and a hat with netting to conceal exposed skin
  • Getting rid of sources of standing water
  • Talking with supervisors on outdoor work assignments and becoming familiar with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s information on Zika and pregnancy
  • Seeking prompt medical attention if symptoms develop

8x11preventionENG

OSHA has published a QuickCard titled Zika Virus Protection for Outdoor Workers that is also available in Spanish.

The Zika Virus Exposures/Cases section offers general guidance for employers of workers with suspected or confirmed Zika with a link to the CDC Zika and Sexual Transmission website.   Recommended actions for employers include:

  • Informing employees of the symptoms of Zika
  • Training workers to seek medical evaluation if Zika symptoms develop
  • Ensuring workers with suspected exposure receive prompt and appropriate medical evaluation and follow-up
  • Considering options for granting employee sick leave during the infectious period

While a number of research companies are feverishly working on a vaccine for Zika with human clinical trials possibly occurring in 2016, it may be several years before the headline news reads “Eureka, a Cure for Zika!”  Until then, employers and employees have a shared responsibility to take appropriate precautions to avoid occupational exposure to Zika virus.  For more information on bloodborne pathogen control, PPE, and respiratory protection, check out the resources available in the MEMIC Safety Director.