With a new administration coming to the White House, it’s likely companies will see some changes from OSHA. Among the possibilities: higher fines for workplace fatalities and injuries.
President-elect Obama has supported the Protecting America’s Workers Act as a Senator.
The bill would increase OSHA penalties:
- maximums for serious and repeat violations would go from $7,000 to $10,000
- top fines for willful violations would increase to $100,000 from $70,000, and
- fines for workplace deaths would be a minimum of $50,000, a maximum of $250,000, and up to ten years in prison.
OSHA fines low by comparison
Elected officials who support increases in OSHA fines say they would act as a deterrent to companies that want to skimp on safety. While responsible companies, like yours, are paying for all the necessary safety tools to prevent injuries, other bad actors see an occasional employee injury as just the price of doing business because it’s cheaper that way.
Elected officials also argue that current fines aren’t enough of a deterrent. Some examples:
- Employee dies at railroad crossing, company fined $2,250
- Trench cave-in kills two employees: company fined $11,200, and
- Fatal electrocution: company fined $37,000.
Compare those fines to some issued by other federal agencies.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can fine a TV or radio station up to $325,000 for indecent content.
In other words, having a potty mouth on TV can garner a fine that’s ten times worse than when a person dies or is seriously and/or permanently injured at work.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fines for incidents in which no employees were injured or killed are also higher than OSHA fines. Some recent examples:
- Company dumps untreated hazardous wastes: Owner could face up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 if convicted
- Company fails to inspect its diesel fleet for compliance with smoke control rules: $114,000, and
- Mishandling hazardous waste and used batteries leads to $190,000 penalty for another firm.
So, we’d like to hear from you on this issue. We all know that some companies put their employees’ lives at risk every day by not taking proper safety precautions. Here’s the question: Should the federal government increase OSHA fines for deaths and serious injuries? Would this be a deterrent to companies that don’t pay enough attention to worker safety? You can let us know what you think by dropping us a note in the Comments Box below.
For more information on the Protecting America’s Workers Act, click here.