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SC gov. sues OSHA for increasing penalties to federal level

OSHA forced states to change their penalties to match the federal level, which in South Carolina more than doubled all violation penalties.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A change requiring penalties against companies violating labor standards to be charged with higher penalties has prompted a lawsuit from the governor of South Carolina.

On Monday, Governor Henry McMaster filed a lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on behalf of South Carolina in regards to the federal agency changing penalty requirements for states.

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In January, OSHA changed guidelines to state that states must levy civil penalties at least at the same rate as those at the federal level.

Since OSHA's founding in the early 1970s, states could set their own rates for civil penalties under their own plans. The 2022 change undid these standards.

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This forced many states to raise their civil penalty standards. In South Carolina's case, the change would cause state leaders to increase the rate from $7,000 to $14,502 for serious and non-serious violations and from $70,000 to $145,027 for repeated or willful violations.

In the lawsuit, McMaster cites federal action by OSHA that revoked Arizona's state plan for failing to change and worries that the same actions could be taken against South Carolina.

McMaster claims in the lawsuit that OSHA's requirements of the states are unlawful because the agency does not have jurisdiction to determine state plans.

Additionally, McMaster believes OSHA violated federal law by not providing a valid reason for the change.

OSHA has yet to respond to the lawsuit legally.

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OSHA violations are handed down to companies when they unknowingly or willingly cause potential or actual safety hazards. 

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