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PT Notes

Executive Order Status Report Highlights - Increasing OSHA Penalties

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Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, was issued on August 1, 2013 owing to continued catastrophic chemical facility incidents. The Executive Order has the objective of enhancing the safety and security of chemical facilities and reducing risks associated with hazardous chemicals to owners and operators, workers, and communities. A Working Group was appointed to oversee work on the Executive Order.

The Working Group published a status report on June 6, 2014. An analysis of the current operating environment, existing regulatory programs, and stakeholder feedback resulted in immediate actions and a Federal Action Plan for future actions to further minimize risks.

The Plan identifies an item for OSHA to work with Congress to pursue action to strengthen the OSH Act's monetary and criminal penalties. OSHA's PSM standard and EPA's RMP rule were created at about the same time pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) amendments to address the same underlying general hazards. However, the OSH Act's penalty provisions are much weaker than those under the CAA's RMP program. The Working Group believes this imbalance in penalties should be corrected by strengthening the OSH Act's civil monetary penalties and indexing them for inflation.

In addition to increased civil monetary penalties, the Working Group believes the criminal penalty provisions of the OSH Act should be strengthened to provide a credible deterrent in order to achieve greater compliance with workplace safety and health standards. Federal environmental laws carry tough criminal penalties: the CAA, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act provide for criminal prosecution (up to 15 years in jail) for knowing violations of the law and for "knowing endangerment" that places a person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, regardless of whether an injury occurs.

Under the OSH Act, willful violations causing employee death [29 USC 666(e)] are Class B misdemeanors for a first conviction with a punishment of up to 6 months in jail. The Working Group believes the OSH Act's deterrence effect would be greatly enhanced with criminal provisions and penalties similar to those under the EPA.

The Working Group report is available at: https://www.osha.gov/chemicalexecutiveorder/

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