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Oregon Ushers Highest-in-Nation OSHA Penalties for Workplace Violations

06 Jul

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Update applicable to:

All employers who conduct business in the state of Oregon

What happened?

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek signed Senate Bill 592 into law on May 24, 2023, resulting in significant amendments to ORS 654.067 and ORS 654.086. These amendments introduce stricter civil penalties and expanded workplace investigations for violations of Oregon’s workplace health and safety laws. The law takes effect May 24, 2023.

What are the details?

SB 592 was passed with an “emergency” adoption clause, which means Oregon OSHA must rapidly perform administrative rulemaking to align with the statutory changes introduced by SB 592. That work entails assembling a rule advisory committee and engaging in a public comment process to gather input on the proposed rules that would implement these changes.

Introduces three triggers for comprehensive inspections

  • Requires Oregon OSHA to conduct a comprehensive inspection of an employer when an inspection of an accident reveals that a violation caused or contributed to a work-related death— The comprehensive inspection would occur within one year of when the accident inspection closes
  • Requires Oregon OSHA to conduct a comprehensive inspection of an employer whenever three or more willful  violations have occurred at the same workplace within a one-year period
  • Requires Oregon OSHA to conduct a comprehensive inspection of an employer whenever three or more repeat violations have occurred at the same workplace within a one-year period

Increases penalties

  • Requires Oregon OSHA to issue penalties between $1,116 and $15,625 for each serious violation committed by an employer
    • Currently, a serious violation that is not a willful or repeat violation carries a minimum penalty of $100 and a maximum penalty of $13,653.
  • If a serious violation caused or contributed to the death of an employee, Oregon OSHA must issue a penalty between $20,000 and $50,000 for each violation.
    • Currently, the maximum penalty for a serious violation is $13,653. There is no specific designation for when a serious violation contributed to a work-related death. Instead, the designation addresses whether the serious violation could have resulted in a work-related death. If the serious violation is a willful or repeat violation, the penalty would go higher.
  • Requires Oregon OSHA to issue penalties between $11,162 and $156,259 for each willful or repeat violation committed by an employer
  • If a willful or repeat violation caused or contributed to the death of an employee, Oregon OSHA must issue a penalty between $50,000 and $250,000 for each willful or repeat violation.
    • Currently: a repeat violation carries a minimum penalty of $200 and a maximum penalty of $135,653, while a willful violation carries a minimum penalty of $9,753 and a maximum penalty of $135,653.
  • Requires Oregon OSHA to conduct annual rulemaking to adjust its penalties in line with changes to the Western Region Consumer Price Index (CPI-WR) rather than the national Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), which is used by federal OSHA to annually adjust its penalties

Raises penalty floor, limits reductions

  • Increases the minimum penalty for a serious violation from $100 to $1,116 and forbids a reduction below that level
  • Removes Oregon OSHA’s ability to provide penalty reductions for repeat serious violations that result in a work-related death or any repeat willful violation, unless the employer agrees to additional abatement measures
    • Currently, Oregon OSHA can provide penalty reductions for many violations – including repeat and willful – based on the size of the employer’s statewide workforce, as spelled out in OAR 437-001-0145.

Requires legislative reports

  • Requires Oregon OSHA to submit an annual report to interim committees of the state legislature beginning no later than Sept. 15, 2024
  • The report would summarize the total number and amount of penalties issued by Oregon OSHA; the total number of appeals of citations, violations, and penalties; and the total number of completed inspections, including their scope and the circumstances that led to them.

For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill 592

Official Bill Page

Law Firm Articles: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3

What do employers need to do?

Employers should promptly familiarize themselves with these changes by reviewing the above links and should then seek legal counsel to understand the potential impact on operations and take all necessary steps to ensure compliance ensuring that their safety programs, including the mandatory Accident Prevention Program, comply with Oregon law.

Need help understanding how changes to employment laws will affect your business?

Learn more about how Vensure's Oregon PEO services can help you navigate complex employment laws and keep your business compliant.


This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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