A lightening rod throughout the industrial sector is everybody’s favorite government agency – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Love or hate ‘em, there’s no debate surrounding the impact of this regulatory body, or the notorious fines it levies.
Whether it’s the record $81 million OSHA hammered down on BP for their role in the 2009 Deepwater Horizon debacle, or Ashley Furniture’s $2.2 million penalty that topped the list last year, have you ever wondered where all that money goes?
OSHA has a 2016 operating budget of just over $552 million and in 2015 they collected about one-tenth of that amount in fines. Interestingly enough, none of this money goes directly back to OSHA. In fact, all of it, as well as fines from other government agencies like the EPA, go to the same general U.S. Treasury fund as income taxes.
And while a healthy share of these fines certainly came from the retail, agricultural and transportation industries, historically speaking, construction has been a leading contributor - generating about 20 percent of all the annual fines levied by OSHA.
There is some irony here when you consider the number of government-funded programs focused on helping people purchase, improve and retain their homes and businesses - often via new construction.
These can include programs that fall under HUD or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Energy Administration’s green construction initiatives, and even HARP – the Home Affordable Refinance Program.
So in this instance, the guilty might literally be repaying a debt to society.