OSHA Increases Fines Significantly, Will Implement a Lengthier Inspection Approach

All businesses – including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, healthcare facilities and others – should be aware of the changes taking effect at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as of August 1. The first involves significant increases to the fines and penalties OSHA can issue for safety violations.

The increased civil penalties are the direct result of a provision in the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act (2015 Inflation Adjustment Act), which directed OSHA to modify its penalties to account for inflation through a “catch up” adjustment, and established a method for increasing penalty amounts based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. OSHA’s civil penalties civil penalties will increase by 78%, with its top penalty for all violations other than willful or repeat violations rising from $7,000 to $12,471 and its willful or repeated violation penalties increasing from $70,000 to $124,709.

In addition and what may be more relevant to many establishments is that OSHA will be changing the way it approaches its inspections. In lieu of conducting a certain number of inspections per month or year to meet an established quota, OSHA will instead focus more on in-depth visits that would take longer periods of time and could dig deeper into operations to find potential problems. This approach would cut down on total inspections performed per year, but would also increase their scope and severity.

Taking A Proactive Approach to Safety

What’s important is for all senior living and health care organizations to take an even more proactive approach to safety, not only to ensure employees are working in a healthy and safe environment but also to avoid compliance slip-ups and to ensure that costly and damaging fines are not incurred.  Following are some recommendations to share with your insureds:

Empower Employees: Develop a culture where employees are encouraged to speak up, without fear of retribution, about potential safety hazards and concerns. By providing a way for staff to anonymously report potentially hazardous situations, employers can take the necessary actions to resolve the issue. Designate an employee or employees to conduct regular safety checks, and implement training programs so that everyone is on the same page. Provide in-house safety inspector with a record-keeping system like a mobile form for real-time accountability, and to ensure that safety is monitored constantly, and hazards are being flagged up the chain.

Embrace Technology: Stay on top of current regulations and workplace inspections by leaning on mobile technology, which can help reduce the amount of dollars and time spent on outdated processes and inefficient paperwork. Using a mobile app for workplace inspections provides teams with the tools and information they need at their fingertips. Mobile users can have access to daily inspection checklists to remain OSHA compliant, which can provide regular access to ergonomics best practices and emergency management.

Be Prepared: By developing a plan early, everyone, from management to employees, is prepared when the time comes for an inspection. Prep teams with mock interviews to ensure employees understand their rights during inspections. Conduct regular “surprise” inspections that are true to OSHA rules to help set the stage for the real thing.

Caitlin Morgan provides end-to-end insurance solutions for the health care industry, including independent living facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health care, and health care facilities. We can assist you in securing a comprehensive, competitive program for your clients as well as help with implementing effective risk management strategies so that insureds mitigate the risk of accidents and injuries and remain compliant with OSHA regulations. Give us a call at 877.226.1027.