The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued new enforcement guidance to make its penalties more effective in stopping employers from repeatedly exposing workers to life-threatening hazards or failing to comply with certain workplace safety and health requirements.

This new guidance covers enforcement activity in the general industry, agriculture, maritime, and construction industries; employers should expect “more frequent and aggressive inspections, as well as stiffer penalties for violations,” according to an article by law firm Fisher Phillips.

OSHA regional administrators and area office directors are authorized to cite high-gravity serious violations of OSHA standards as “instance-by-instance citations.” These conditions include lockout/tagout, machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, falls, trenching and cases with other-than-serious violations specific to record keeping.

The following factors are to be taken into consideration in the decision of whether to use instance-by-instance citations:

  • The employer has received a willful, repeat or failure to abate violation within the past five years where that classification is current.
  • The employer has failed to report a fatality, inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye pursuant to the requirements of 29 CFR 1904.39.
  • The proposed citations are related to a fatality/catastrophe.
  • The proposed recordkeeping citations are related to injury or illness(es) that occurred as a result of a serious hazard.

In a second action, OSHA reminded regional administrators and area directors of their authority to cite violations separately rather than grouping them to more effectively encourage employers to comply with the intent of the act.

“Smart, impactful enforcement means using all the tools available to us when an employer ‘doesn’t get it’ and will respond to only additional deterrence in the form of increased citations and penalties,” explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “This is intended to be a targeted strategy for those employers who repeatedly choose to put profits before their employees’ safety, health and well-being. Employers who callously view injured or sickened workers simply as a cost of doing business will face more serious consequences.”