In 2016, OSHA issued a serious citation to a private security guard firm that did not require its armed security guards to wear bulletproof vests. An ALJ tossed out the citation, but the story’s not over. OSHA has an appeal pending before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. At stake: whether certain employers must require employees to wear bulletproof vests as personal protective equipment (PPE).

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When Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta testified before Congress earlier this month, he emphasized balancing safety agencies’ legal obligations and commitments with President Trump’s commitment to deregulation. Meanwhile, members from both parties on the Subcommittee of Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations focused heavily on $1.2 billion in proposed budget cuts at the Department of Labor (but not for OSHA or MSHA).

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Baked into the core of federal safety laws is the concept that employers facing unfair citations can get a day in court. That system depends on two independent commissions of judges – both trial judges and appellate – to hear and review cases involving OSHA and MSHA citations. Keeping those panels stocked with commissioners has been an ongoing challenge.

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Can mis-steps with OSHA land you in jail? Several recent cases are a reminder that the risk is real. While OSHA rarely makes a criminal case out of safety violations, it does pursue criminal charges when people mislead the agency through false statements, falsified records, or destroyed documents. A company that does not take great care in handling an investigation risks such costly errors, leading to criminal prosecution and stiff penalties under federal law.

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As of the end of last month, OSHA citations will cost you more. The Department of Labor published the official version of the Final Rule for the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Annual Adjustment for 2019, which adjusts civil penalties for inflation. Federal law requires the annual adjustment to occur each year by January 15th. This year’s publication was delayed due to the partial government shutdown.

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