With its enactment of the Budget Reconciliation Act on September 5, 1990, Congress has increased maximum Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties a whopping sevenfold. The maximum penalty for a willful or repeated violation is now 70,000 dollars, up from 10,000 dollars, and the maximum penalty for a serious or other-than-serious violation is 7,000 dollars, up from 1,000 dollars. These amounts are ceilings, not floors. But to ensure that flagrant violators are fined sufficiently, the minimum penalty for a willful violation is now 5,000 dollars.

These increases do not change the penalty process. The gravity of the violation still determines the base fine, which is reduced based on the size, good faith, and safety history of the employer. Small companies may have penalties reduced up to 60 percent. If an employer has implemented a written safety and health program that meets OSHA requirements, he or she may also qualify for a 25 percent "good faith" reduction. The exact penalty for a serious violation is based on the severity and probability or an injury or illness occurring. If the violation is judged highly severe and the chance of injury is great, good faith reductions are not considered.