Even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) top dog thinks they're still too low, fines for serious violations by the agency in 2011 shot up to $2,132 from $1,053 a year earlier, thanks to a legislative tweak that reduced the number of penalty reductions available to employers for factors such as the number of workers, safety records and other considerations.

Of the increase, OSHA administrator David Michaels said, "It's still quite low," adding, "We give out citations associated with fatalities for a few thousand dollars.”

At the same time, the number of OSHA inspections ticked downward slightly from 40,993 in 2010 to 38,667, due to a shift in focus that emphasizes more health inspections.

“Health inspections take longer than safety inspections, and we're doing more health inspections," Michaels explained. "Inspections that involve recordkeeping also take great deal longer.”

One statistic that stayed the same was the rate at which employers appeal citations. That rate remained consistent from 2010 to 2011 at 8 percent.

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