Sunday, June 14, 2009

Low Fines by OSHA


The article below was posted in the Parade Magazine on Sunday, June 14, 2009. This article reflects something that I have advocated quite a number of times regarding the "slap on the wrist" fines after announcing a sizable fine for violations, especially related to fatalities.

The reduction of fines at an informal appeal by the violating organization just does not make Horse Sense. For example these reductions from maybe $65,000 may be reduced to $12,000.

New Efforts To Keep Workers Safe

Nearly 40 years after the Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted to protect workers, organized labor and some members of Congress say the government's regulations are in need of an overhaul.

According to the Bureau of Labor Stastics, some 6,000 Americans are killed annyally in workplace accidents--more than 15 a day--and millions more are injured. But a study conducted by the AFL-CIO, using date from the Occupaitonal Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), found that the average fine for deadly violations is only $11,300. Ped Seminario, the union's director of safety and health, says that under current law, "fish, horses, and wild burros have stronger protections from harm than workers. That's an outrage, and it needs to change."

OSHA's records show that workplace violations increased 6.4%, to 89,000, from 2003 through 2007. Serious violations were up 12%--to67,000--during that same period.

Rp. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) says penalties are "shockingly low," amounting to a "slap on the wrist for killing or injuring a worker." Even in the most egregious cases, employers rarely face criminal prosecution, she adds.

Woolsey, who chairs the House Subcommittee on workforce protections, has introduced legislation that would greatly increase both civil and criminal penalties for vilations of OSHA rules. The maximum fine for willful and repeated violations, including those causing death, would increase from $70,000 to $250,000. Maximum jail time for willful violations that result in death would go from two years to 20 years.

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