Like Sammy Hagar, you may not be able to drive 55. But no matter how quickly you’d like to get where you’re going, chances are you’ll stay well under 100 the next time you’re on the open road. The question is why.
Assistant OSHA head Jordan Barab recently told a NIOSH-sponsored symposium about a hefty speeding ticket he once got. The experience made him lighten up on the pedal, he said.
His point: Enforcement is an important tool. And if OSHA had the power to slap bigger fines on offending companies, you’d see safer workplaces.
But Barab admits there’s no way of knowing for sure — that there’s been little research on the subject.
Which brings us back to the original question: Is your decision not to treat the daily commute like the Daytona 500 influenced more by your concern about a whopping speeding ticket, or by your desire to arrive alive?
Gabrielle Sigel, a Chicago-based lawyer who specializes in workplace health and safety, points out that injury rates have continued to fall while penalty rates have stayed steady.
The vast majority of employers, she says, are motivated by something other than penalties. They’re concerned about answering to their employees and their shareholders, their bottom line and “answering to their own conscience.”
Penalties make a difference, she says, but they’re not the primary driver.
Rick Kaletsky, a consultant and former OSHA compliance officer, points out that repeat penalties can be costly, because they can lead to lost business, especially for contract companies.
But Wayne Gray, an economics professor who’s studied the impact of fines, says companies who are penalized often respond by going beyond the legal requirements. They begin looking for other hazards to fix, indicating that they’re concerned about much more than avoiding fines.
What do you think? Would the threat of larger OSHA fines result in safer workplaces?