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OSHA sanctions lead to improved workplace safety

Employers in New Jersey and around the country are more likely to enforce safety regulations and standards after being cited or fined following an OSHA workplace inspection according to an Institute for Work and Health study. However, the study also revealed that the mere threat of sanctions or an inspection did little to reduce the number of work-related accidents or injuries.

The results of the IWH study were consistent with previously conducted research that linked OSHA inspections and sanctions with improved workplace safety. A representative of the safety agency said that the IWH findings were in line with their own observations and supported OSHA's commitment to strict enforcement of regulations and standards designed to protect workers and reduce accident rates.

Employers concerned about possible fines will soon be forced to dig deeper into their pockets when workplace inspections uncover violations. The fines levied by OSHA have remained unchanged since 1990, but the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act will see them rise substantially. An initial catch-up assessment designed to adjust fines for increases in the cost of living index between 1990 and 2015 will result in fines increasing by about 80 percent. The fines will then be adjusted each year on Jan. 15 based on inflation.

The IWH study reveals that employers are often more concerned about workplace safety when they have a financial motive, but concerns about rising costs can also lead to workers' compensation claims being contested due to fears over rising insurance rates. While those injured in a workplace accident may be entitled to benefits even if they acted negligently, their claims may be denied if their employers claim that the accident was not work-related or the worker is exaggerating the severity of their injuries. Attorneys with workers' compensation experience may advocate on behalf of those injured on the job during hearings when their claims are contested by their employers.

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