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If OSHA comes knocking, do you know what to expect?

Most employers have heard about the revised federal overtime guidelines that will become effective on December 1, 2016. These new guidelines have caused great distress among small companies and non-profits. The reasoning for the dramatic change in the new minimum wage for exempt-salaried employees (from $433/week to $913/week) is that this regulation did not keep up with inflation and had not been changed for several years. Although the duties tests did not change, the government added a few new categories to the exempt category. If you are not sure if your employees who are on salary meet both the duties test and the new salary minimum, now is the time to make that determination. We’ll be glad to share the 9 exemptions with you. Just e-mail

Other changes that have not been so widely publicized are the new OSHA penalties. The maximum penalties have not increased since 1990. The recent 78% increases are a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act passed by Congress last year, which directs agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year. Effective August 1st, the maximum penalty for serious violations will go up from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for willful or repeat violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.

What does this mean for the small employer? If you have been cited by OSHA in the past, you want to be certain that you have fully addressed the issues. If your company receives a second visit from OSHA and they find repeat violations, you can face horrendous fines. It is worth asking your insurance agent if OSHA fines are deductible as a business expense.

What do you do if OSHA shows up at your door? By all means, let them in. Politely ask to see their identification. Be prepared to produce your last five years of OSHA 300 logs and 300A forms. If you have a forklift, be prepared to produce forklift inspection checklists. If you have employees and they work with chemicals in any way, shape, or form, be prepared to produce annual training records on your Hazard Communication Program and any other safety programs that are required by your industry. If you have any employees (full or part-time), make sure have Workers’ Compensation insurance in case they get hurt on the job. If you don’t, the fines will begin. Do you have the most recent posters? The latest poster was revised in July 2016. Last month, one of my clients proudly showed me the laminated poster that he had just received from his payroll company. Three of the posters had already expired.

If you are worried about OSHA knocking on your door or would like a free set of current federal and state posters, please contact HR Compliance 101. We can help.

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