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OSHA fines linked to improved workplace safety

An increase in the amount of the fines handed down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will likely make workplaces safer in Pennsylvania and around the country. According to the Institute for Work and Health, financial penalties imposed following workplace inspections reduce both the number of accidents and the severity of the injuries suffered by workers. This conclusion was reached after researchers reviewed the impact that enforcing safety standards and regulations had on employers.

Previous studies had reached the same conclusion, but the IWH team noticed that a looming inspection and the possibility of a fine had far less of an impact on on-the-job injuries than actual citations and financial sanctions. An OSHA representative welcomed the results of the study and said that it vindicated that agency's policy of strict enforcement.

The amount of the fines handed out by OSHA was increased for the first time in 25 years in 2015 by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act. Adjustments based on the rate of inflation between 1990 and 2015 will be reflected in an initial catch-up assessment followed by an adjustment that will take effect each year on Jan. 15. Observers say that the initial catch-up assessment will see OSHA fines increase by almost 80 percent.

OSHA fines are not the only financial penalties that employers may face when safety regulations are not followed. The workers' compensation claims filed by injured employees may result in sharp insurance rate increases for businesses, and this can sometimes lead to claims being contested. Attorneys with experience in this area may represent injured workers when their employers claim that their injuries are either being exaggerated or were not suffered in a workplace accident. Attorneys could also assist injured workers with the preparation of their claims and explain the kind of medical evidence that will likely be required.

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