Oregon now has the highest OSHA penalties in the country
The passing of Senate Bill 592 on May 24, 2023, has signaled a huge shift in Oregon workplace safety law. While Oregon used to impose some of the lowest OSHA penalties, with this new law, Oregon is now the state with the highest OSHA penalties in the country.
- the minimum penalty for a single serious violation has now nearly quadrupled, from $300 to $1,116;
- the minimum penalty for a violation that caused or contributed to an employee fatality significantly increased from $3,750 to $20,000;
- the minimum penalty for repeated violations has skyrocketed from $200 to $11,162, for each violation;
- the maximum penalty for repeated or “willful” violations has shot up from $9,753 to $156,259 for each violation;
- the law provides for a penalty of up to $250,000 for any “willful” or repeated violation that caused or contributed to an employee fatality;
- the maximum penalty for a failure to correct a violation after receiving a citation is $15,625 for each day during which the violation continues; and
- in cases involving penalties for repeated willful or serious violations, any penalty reduction must be conditioned upon the employer’s agreement to comply with “additional abatement measures as determined by the state agency.”
Moreover, the new law substantially broadens the state agency’s investigatory powers and responsibilities.
- The Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services is now authorized to conduct a “comprehensive inspection of any place of employment as deemed necessary by the department based upon the prior violation history of the place of employment regarding any state occupational safety or health law, regulation, standard, rule or order.”
- The director is now required to conduct a comprehensive inspection in cases involving work-related fatalities or whenever three or more willful or repeated violations occur within a one-year period.
A “comprehensive inspection” is defined as “a substantially complete inspection of a place of employment” that is comprehensive within “the professional judgment of the inspector who conducts the inspection.”
Takeaways for Oregon Wine Country Businesses:
SB 592 expands the scenarios where Oregon OSHA will conduct a comprehensive “wall-to-wall” inspection of a worksite, inevitably making “comprehensive” inspections more frequent. Such inspections are more disruptive and time-consuming than partial inspections, and are more likely to reveal additional violations. Additional violations will mean a significant increase in penalties under the new law. Businesses need to be proactive and assess workplace safety compliance before the OR Department of Consumer and Business Services knocks on their doors. The attorneys at Carle Mackie, Power & Ross LLP (with offices in Lake Oswego, OR, Santa Rosa, CA, and St. Helena, CA) are here to help your business create a comprehensive work-safety compliance plan.