For a variety of Connecticut employers, a knock on the door from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) can be a scary moment, as a visit from a federal workplace safety inspector often uncovers violations.
But in most cases, employers don’t lose sleep over the threat of financial penalties for offenses. While serious OSHA violations can fetch penalties that reach into the six figures, fines tend to be relatively modest, if they are levied at all.
“I think … there may be a bit of a rude awakening when the fines increase,” said Jane Warren, a law partner at McCarter English in Hartford, where she leads the firm’s OSHA practice. “I think companies are going to be caught a little off guard.”
Warren said companies don’t always pay attention to the threat of OSHA penalties as much as they should because it’s considered a cost of doing business to some when fines are so low.
Warren said she hasn’t seen any significant scrambling by Connecticut companies in advance of the penalty increases. Some firms probably aren’t aware of it, but she thinks companies should update their compliance manuals and step up safety training, among other measures.
“It’s easy to find violations anywhere,” she said. “It’s not hard.”
Higher fines also likely means more companies will contest them, creating more work for attorneys like Warren.