The Way

GB's Weekly Governmental Briefing

Through our Governmental Affairs practice, GB is helping to shape the laws and regulations that will define the times ahead. Acting on behalf of the best interests of our clients and our industry.
Each week, we bring it all into focus.

Maximum Civil Penalties

Jul. 06, 2016
LEAD STORY

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its interim rule to raise existing maximum civil penalties by 78%. OSHA will raise its maximum penalty for serious violations from $7,000 to $12,471 and will increase the fine for willful and repeated violations from $70,000 to $124,709. The higher fines will go into effect Aug. 1 for infractions occurring after Nov. 2, 2015. OSHA will accept public comments for 45 days before issuing its final rule.

FROM THE SECRETARY'S DESK

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez maintains that civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide. Secretary Perez added, "Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don't follow the law." Secretary Perez has been seen on the short list of Vice Presidential candidates on the Clinton ticket.

STILL ON THE AGENDA

OSHA will remain busy through the summer. There are a number of key rules still in the pipeline. One of the many anticipated rulemaking efforts involves slip, trip, and fall prevention. This particular rule has been in production since 1990. We expect the final rule will be on its way to employers sometime this August.

National Highway Safety

313,000 AGING VEHICLES

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported this week that new tests show that a sub-set of airbags, in approximately 313,000 model-year 2001-2003 Honda and Acura automobiles, have a 50% chance of exploding when deployed in an accident - compared to a 1% chance for other airbags. NHTSA urges that the risk posed by the airbag inflators in these vehicles is grave, and it is critical they be repaired now to avoid more deaths and serious injuries. Nearly 70 million airbags in U.S. cars have been or will be recalled as part of a massive safety investigation.

1 BRAND NEW VEHICLE

NHTSA is also investigating what is thought to be the auto industry's first fatality involving an autonomous driving feature. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee that oversees NHTSA, warns that this incident raises some serious concern about whether current autonomous vehicle technology is ready for use on public roads. Senator Nelson calls upon NHTSA to take a hard look at this incident and determine whether the autopilot feature in this car is actually safe. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees NHTSA, is expected to issue guidelines for autonomous vehicles later this month.

Making Our Way Around the Country

STATE SUPREME COURTS

Two state supreme courts addressed the expansion of workers' compensation rights this week. In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court struck down a long-standing exemption to workers' compensation coverage that applied the owners of farms and ranches as unconstitutional. The ruling expands workers' compensation coverage to thousands of farmers and ranchers in the state. Across the panhandle, the Oklahoma Supreme Court examined the compensability provisions of the state's Administrative Workers' Compensation Act and determined that workers injured while walking through a parking lot on her way lot to work and while driving on the highway on his way home from a remote worksite were compensable injuries.

STATE INDEMNITY RATES

This week, the South Dakota Department of Labor raised the maximum and minimum workers' compensation rates, cost-of-living allowances, and mileage and meal rates. The maximum weekly indemnity payments are going up 4%. In Nevada, the Division of Industrial Relations announced a 2% increase to the maximum monthly disability compensation for fiscal year 2017.

WC PREMIUM INCREASES

Workers' compensation premium rates are on the rise. Following two recent Florida Supreme Court cases, regulators in the Sunshine State are being asked to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike in insurance premiums paid by the state's business owners to cover their employees. In New York, regulators held a public hearing last week to evaluate a 9.3% recommended increase to the state's WC premium rates. If approved, both rates would become effective on Oct. 1, 2016.

OHIO

Cleveland officials voted to buy a $50 million "protest insurance" policy for the Republican National Convention - a five-fold increase over what was previously approved - in a tangible sign that city officials now believe the risk of hosting the event is larger than what was initially believed.

THE GREAT ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL

John Adams got it right. Generations removed from his famous 1776 missive to his wife Abigail, the Nation commemorated its Day of Deliverance with solemn acts of devotion, pomp and parade, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.

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