The following is a guest post by Trent Cotney, P.A.*
Under the current administration, OSHA has dramatically increased the number of inspections and citations issued to roofing contractors. President Obama recently signed the Federal Budget Act (the “Act”) on November 2, 2015. A provision was buried in the text of the Act that authorized OSHA to increase the penalties for citations for the first time since 1990. Under the Act, OSHA can account for inflation from 1990 to 2015 and increase fines using a one-time increase. Modified for inflation, penalties can increase by as much as 82%. For example, the maximum fine for a repeat or willful violation is $70,000. Under the new Act, the fines could increase to $125,000. The minimum fine often assessed to contractors is $7,000 for serious-classified violations. Under the new Act, that fine could increase to approximately $12,500.
The Act also allows OSHA to increase penalties every year to account for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation increase. Currently, it appears the increased penalties will go into effect on or before August 1, 2016, with annual increases to start in 2017. Safety is a top priority for any roofer. However, given the rampant increase in OSHA inspections and questionable citations, this sudden and dramatic increase in penalties may have a chilling effect on construction and adversely affect many roofing contractors.
To address these issues, I recommend that roofing contractors participate in local, state and national roofing associations to lobby for changes to OSHA inspections and enforcement. Many states have also developed their own safety programs using federal guidelines and have opted out of federal OSHA enforcement. A state-centralized safety commission may have more accountability than the current federal Department of Labor.
For more information, contact the author at (813) 579-3278 or go to www.trentcotney.com.
* Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.
Trent Cotney is Florida Bar Certified in Construction Law, General Counsel and a director of the Florida Roofing Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors Association (FRSA), a director of the West Coast Roofing Contractors Association (WCRCA), and a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA) and several other FRSA affiliates.