So Let's Do the Math - 10/10/2016

Safety E-QuickTips

U.S. Compliance Systems, Inc.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Safety E-QuickTips is a weekly email designed to help Employers and Employees start their week with a short thought about safety in the workplace.

So Let's Do the Math


Here we are at week 6 of how to take our safety program to the next level. As we roll along in this process I thought this might be a good time to discuss one of the real values of implementing your company safety program.

Last week I received a phone call from a past client regarding OSHA citations they had just received. After reviewing the 3 items that they were cited for I asked how much the penalty amount was.

The answer -- $17,460.

Let me give you a little background on this company and the violations. This company employs around 15 people, has not been cited by OSHA in the past 5 years, and 1 of the violations was classified as “Other Than Serious” with $0 penalty.

So let’s do the math. $17,460 divided by the remaining 2 items equals $8,730 per item.

Now I know that some of you are familiar with the recent 78% increase in OSHA’s penalty structure, but sometimes I think it is important to see exactly how this plays out in the real world.

Since the rate increase in August of this year the maximum penalty for a serious violation is $12,471. If you take the $8,730 penalty OSHA charged for the 2 serious violations you will see that OSHA gave the company a 30% discount for the size of their company and any other discounts that were included.

Let’s take a look at what these 2 items would have cost prior to August 1st.

Before August 1st a serious violation would have maxed out at $7,000 and if an employer was given the same 30% discount, the penalty would have been reduced to $4,900. If you take that and multiply by 2 you have $9,800. That is $7,660 less than the current amount that this company is being charged today.

$9,800 to $17,460 is a big increase in penalties and one that may not come easy to many smaller companies.

So if a company is cited by OSHA and is required to pay these increased penalties, where will the money come from? The answer is simple: profits. And how long do you think it would it take a company with 15 employees to make $17,460 in profit to pay those penalties? I can’t provide a specific answer, but I’m guessing a while.

Now that we’ve reviewed one of the real values (a 78% increase in OSHA penalties) of implementing your safety program, let’s move on to part 2 of how you can move your safety program forward.

Part 2: Determine what steps you would need to take to implement your safety program.

One of the ways I’ve found to help simplify this process is to break these steps down into 3 categories, and if you’ve been reading Safety E-QuickTips over the years you’ve heard me talk about them more than once.

They are steps 2-4 of what I’ve always referred to as How to Prevent Costly OSHA Citations:

  • Effectively communicate your company safety policies to your employees
  • Perform regular and frequent workplace inspections
  • Enforce safety with your employees (hold them accountable)

If you’re wondering what the 1st step is, we’ve actually already covered it: establishing your company’s safety policies and procedures.

Let’s take a look at the 3 steps. We’ll start with how you can effectively communicate your company safety policies to your employees.

Let’s list some ways you can make that happen. You could provide:

  • New employee safety orientations
  • Formal hazard specific safety training
  • 5 to 10 minute safety meetings (tool box talks)
  • Employee safety handbooks
  • Safety tips in paychecks
  • Review completed Job Hazard Analysis forms with your employees

As you can see, the first category is no more than providing employee safety training from short tips to formal training. You might have some ideas that you could add to this list.

Now let’s look at performing regular and frequent workplace inspections.

Here are a few things that have to happen to move this process forward:

  • Prepare inspection checklists based on hazards your employees may be exposed to
  • Establish which hazards your employees are most likely to come in contact with on a regular basis
  • Establish which hazards are the most serious and could cause the greatest harm to your employees
  • Determine who will perform the inspections: upper management, site or floor supervisors, a third party

Last but not least, let’s look at enforcing safety with your employees.

I’ve always found this one of the more difficult things to make happen when a company is trying to implement their safety program, but also one of the most important because without it, we’ve found that many employees don’t take workplace safety seriously.

So here are a few things that will need to be done to move this process forward:

  • Establish a list of categories for your violations such as other than serious, serious and willful
  • Determine what enforcement action will take place for each of the violation categories
  • Determine how the enforcement action will be carried out to create a maximum deterrent for the employee while having the least negative impact on the company
  • Determine who will be responsible for taking enforcement action

I’ve run a little long today, so we’ll leave part 3 and maybe get to 4 next week.

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Thanks for Reading and Please - Work Safe This Week!

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U.S. Compliance Systems, Inc.
Phone: 1-888-475-5353
Fax: 1-888-925-5353
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