It’s been a little over a year since the feds announced the third-largest penalty in OSHA history. Imperial Sugar was fined $8.8 million in the wake of a combustible-dust explosion that killed 14 employees.
And the case hasn’t been settled.
The fact that the appeal is dragging on is significant. But how it turns out may be even more significant.
When the fine was announced, company CEO John Sheptor said he hoped the whole thing would be settled “in a few weeks,” according to an article in the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.
In the same article, plantiffs lawyer Mark Tate explains why that hasn’t happened: “(OSHA’s) pressing its case as doggedly as private lawyers would. Proposed OSHA fines used to get settled for pennies on the dollar. But not this time.”
This chart, posted by probublica.org, lends credence to the “pennies on the dollar” comment. Many of OSHA’s largest proposed fines eventually withered into small fractions of their original figures.
Does this mean OSHA is now overreaching? Or is developing a bite that matches its bark long overdue? Let us know what you think in the Comment Box below.