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OSHA fines and citations linked to improved workplace safety

Employers in New York and around the country are more likely to make efforts to improve workplace safety after they have been cited and fined following an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to a study conducted by the Institute for Work and Health. IWH researchers also say that the mere threat of an inspection is far less effective at reducing accidents and injuries in the workplace.

The IWH researchers looked at the number of work-related injuries that occurred prior to and following an OSHA inspection that resulted in citations being handed down and fines assessed. The results of the study were in line with previous research that has linked workplace safety inspections with a reduction in accident and injury rates. An OSHA representative said that the findings supported the agency's commitment to enforcement of safety standards and regulations.

The amount of the fines handed down by OSHA have remained constant for 25 years, but the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act of 2015 will see them increase by about 80 percent to adjust for cost of living increases between 1990 and 2015. Once the initial catch-up assessment has been applied, OSHA fines will increase each year on Jan. 15 based on the rate of inflation.

In addition to possible fines from OSHA, employers may face increased workers' compensation insurance rates after a workplace accident. Fears of rising premiums may lead employers or their insurance providers to contest an injured worker's claim by alleging that the injuries were not suffered while at work or are less serious than they are being portrayed. Attorneys with experience of workers' compensation cases may be familiar with these tactics, and they could advocate on behalf of injured workers to help ensure that they receive all of the benefits to which they may be entitled.

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