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New rules, higher fines – OSHA compliance in 2023

By The Fulcrum Team
March 22, 2023

As companies get fully back to work following several tumultuous years, OSHA is reasserting its presence and re-emphasizing the importance of workplace safety and OSHA compliance. 

Effective January 5, 2023, OSHA raised the penalty rate to $15,625 per violation (up from $14,502). Eleven days later, OSHA provided new guidance for inspectors doing Instance-by-Instance (IBI) and “grouping” citations, two initiatives that will increase the scope and impact of its enforcement when they come into effect at the end of March.

By increasing fines and allowing for different ways of assessing penalties – alongside increasing its inspection workforce by 19% in 2022 – OSHA is making a clear statement, one that all EHS professionals should heed:  it’s more important than ever to have a safe, compliant workplace and ensure safety programs are OSHA-ready. 

Join us as we break down OSHA’s new measures and look at how digital field safety inspection software can both protect workers from harm and workplaces from OSHA liability.

Instance-by-Instance (IBI) citation

Inspectors can now cite “high-gravity” serious violations of OSHA standards as Instance-by-Instance (IBI) citations. This means that instead of one blanket penalty for several instances of the same violation, non-compliant businesses will be cited for each instance of the violation throughout the worksite, with the potential for much higher fines overall.

For example, consider a 200-meter trench dug at a horizontal construction site. If the trench does not comply with sloping requirements in five different places, instead of citing once for non-compliant trench sloping, OSHA examiners can cite each instance of sloping variance for violation, with the same fine levied for each instance.

This a significant departure from previous OSHA policy, which only considered willfully egregious cases where employers intentionally disregarded or were indifferent to health and safety standards. The new IBI policy will greatly increase the potential number of citations and result in significantly higher penalty amounts.

The end of “grouping” violations

OSHA is also looking to cite more violations separately rather than grouping them together.

Previously, when two or more violations constituted a single hazardous condition, OSHA inspectors often “grouped” several violations into one citation. However, the agency’s new initiative discourages grouping violations when there is evidence that violations are separate and distinct.

Returning to our trench example, OSHA requires employers to provide ladders or other safe means of egress for workers in trench excavations 4 feet or deeper. At the same time, they also require all trench workers be protected from materials falling or rolling into an excavation by keeping equipment at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench. For example, let’s say a ladder that is used to enter and exit the trench is not firmly secured (violation #1), but instead is placed by the edge of the trench (violation #2) for workers to freely reach up and use it at will. Previously, an inspector would have likely grouped these related violations together into one citation, but is now encouraged to issue two separate citations.

By citing violations separately, OSHA hopes to create a more accurate picture of the hazards present in the workplace and encourage employers to take steps to address each violation. Much like IBI citation, discouraging “grouping” will result in higher total penalty amounts and more total violations for employers.

Worker performing a safety inspection using a tablet - New rules, higher fines - OSHA compliance in 2023

Field safety inspection software ensures OSHA-compliant workplaces

OHS professionals need to prepare for these updated enforcement standards by reviewing their current safety and health programs, retraining employees on workplace safety where necessary, and investing in the right tools to make this happen.

Let’s look at a few ways digital field safety inspection software protects workers from harm and workplaces from OSHA liability.

SOPs to guide workers

Creating SOPs is essential to ensure that workers perform their tasks correctly and safely. By implementing consistent protocols across individuals, teams, and projects, organizations achieve safer outcomes and better-quality work. Digital field inspection platforms aid managers in crafting customizable checklists for task SOPs. This ensures clarity and consistency across the team. New or inexperienced workers can access step-by-step instructions with multimedia support on their mobile devices, enhancing training. By reducing cognitive workload and providing clear guidance, workers can focus on meeting the best standards while completing their tasks.

Community-wide reporting of safety issues

Digital platforms tap into employees’ knowledge of daily workplace conditions. They’re more familiar than occasional safety inspectors. User-friendly inspection software allows anyone to report issues via QR codes. This fosters community reporting, effectively making every employee an inspector. Involving workers in identifying and managing safety issues promotes a proactive culture of responsibility where reporting is essential for everyone.

Remediation made easy

Field inspection platforms supply swift, comprehensive data. It aids managers and teams in addressing safety issues promptly. Performance and issue-tracking dashboards offer data-driven visibility. They identify potential gaps and facilitate efficient tasking of remediation. Managers swiftly create, assign, schedule, and track remediation and follow-up inspections. This ensures timely issue resolution, fostering safety and compliance through collaboration while reducing risk.

Data at the ready

In case of accidents or violations, a digital safety inspection record proves due diligence. It can be shared with OSHA to demonstrate compliance efforts, potentially reducing the risk of severe assessments and fines.

Digital safety and liability protection

OSHA’s new penalty and citation framework signals the renewed urgency with which the agency is enforcing workplace safety – and should rightfully change how you both view and respond to compliance measures.

Digital inspection management tools make it easy to be OSHA-compliant because they make safety easy. Day in, day out, user-friendly and automated digital platforms guide workers to better, safer work, promote community reporting, and ensure timely remediation of safety issues – all before OSHA even shows up. In other words, a digital field safety inspection platform like Fulcrum is the apple a day that keeps OSHA at bay.

Prepare for the new OSHA penalty and enforcement guidance by signing up for a free trial of Fulcrum’s industry-leading safety inspection platform.