A new law gives the federal government the power to impose harsher fines on businesses that violate workplace safety laws, but the financial impact won't be known until next summer.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be able to increase the penalties it imposes — the first increase of its kind in many years — because of a provision that was included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.
The Republican-controlled Congress approved the two-year budget bill in the waning days of October, just before the federal fiscal year ended. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed the legislation Nov. 2.
The Obama administration has argued for the past several years that one of the biggest obstacles to OSHA's enforcement of workplace safety laws is the low level of civil penalties that are allowed.
The civil penalties were limited to $7,000 for serious violations, such as hazards that could cause death or serious bodily injury, and $70,000 for willful and repeat violations.