Repeat Offenders Face New Risks with Rules Change

Late last year, Cal-OSHA was contemplating changes to the rules regarding repeat violations. With encouragement from Federal-OSHA to create regulations and practices consistent with those of the national agency, the rules are in line for some significant revision. Here’s a quick look at updates for 2016.

Look Back Period Is Extended

How far back can OSHA look to determine if there is a pattern of violations? The current California standard puts a time limit of three years on the look back period. But the new rules will give OSHA inspectors leeway to review a full five years of safety history to determine if employers are repeat offenders. If an employer has previously corrected a workplace safety problem after being cited and then allows the same violation to recur within a five year period, they will face steep penalties.

Location Becomes Less Important

In recognition of the fact that safety is as much an issue of company culture as it is work-site specific, employers will be held accountable for repeat violations at any work location or facility in the state. A violation that is identified and cited at one work site should be immediately abated at all work sites. Otherwise, OSHA inspectors could potentially go looking for similar problems at other locations to hold employers accountable for repeated violations within a short time frame.

Fines Are Going Up

When these changes take place, Cal-OSHA expects to substantially increase the number of repeat violation citations issued annually. In addition to making it easier to cite employers, the proposed increases in fines from a maximum of $70,000 to a maximum of $124,709 per repeat violation went into effect in early August.

Be Careful Not to Repeat Past Mistakes

This is a good time for wastewater agencies to review their history of any citations and ensure that none of the conditions have recurred. In the wastewater industry where construction and maintenance may occur at many different sites, there is a special need to be vigilant about developing and consistently implementing an appropriate safety program. For assistance in evaluating your safety practices, contact DKF Solutions today.