It's official! New amendments to Iowa's OSHA statute dramatically increase civil penalties for violations

Joan Fletcher, Iowa Employment and Labor Law, Dickinson Law Firm, Des Moines Iowa

Posted on 04/14/2017 at 09:28 AM by Joan Fletcher

Under the 2016 changes to Federal OSHA, any citations issued by Federal OSHA after August 1, 2016 were subject to penalties which were increased by roughly 80%, if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015. As one of 21 states with its own occupational safety and health plan, Iowa was required to set standards that are at least as effective as the equivalent federal standard in order to maintain its OSHA approved state plan.

As expected, the Iowa legislature recently passed legislation to amend Iowa’s law governing workplace safety and health, found at Iowa Code Chapter 88, to conform with the new federal civil penalties. Governor Branstad signed the new amendments into law this week, on April 12, 2017 and they are effective immediately.  

The amendments to Chapter 88 do not specify dollar amounts of the various maximum penalties.  Instead, they reference the maximum penalty amounts set by the U.S. Department of Labor, pursuant to Federal OSHA and direct the labor commissioner to adopt rules that contain the minimum and maximum penalty amounts. Under Federal OSHA, these amounts will continue to be adjusted annually for inflation, based on the consumer price index. As a result of the new legislation, the maximum penalty for serious OSHA violations in Iowa will increase from $7,000 to $12,675. Penalties for failure to correct a violation for which a citation has been issued and for violations of posting, reporting or recordkeeping requirements will also increase from $7,000 to $12,675. The minimum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $5,000 to $8,908 and the maximum penalty will increase from $70,000 to $126,749. These amounts reflect federal OSHA’s minimum and maximum penalties adjusted for inflation as of January 13, 2017.

The Iowa Legislative Services Agency, Financial Services Division, released a Fiscal Note prior to the passage of the new legislation reporting that in recent years, OSHA penalties have resulted in approximately $1.0 million annually being deposited into Iowa’s General Fund. The Note estimated that the new legislation would increase the General Fund’s revenue by $800,000 annually, beginning with fiscal year 2018.

The substantial financial consequences of the new penalties create an even greater incentive for employers to promptly involve legal counsel in the resolution and defense of OSHA citations.  

The material in this blog is not intended, nor should it be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if specific legal information is needed.

- Joan Fletcher


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