The architect of the strategy to get bigger penalties by prosecuting safety violations under environmental laws says it’s time to overhaul OSHA legislation for the first time in almost 40 years.
Under the new Democratic regime with larger majorities in both houses of Congress, there’s a chance this could happen, David Uhlmann, now an environmental law professor at the University of Michigan told the recent Professional Conference on Industrial Hygiene in Tampa.
Specifically, Uhlmann proposed to:
- Upgrade criminal safety violations by employers from misdemeanors to felonies (“it should be more penalized than going through a red light”)
- Increase criminal penalties for injuries and endangerment instead of just death
- Enhanced penalties, up substantially from the present $70,000 maximum for willful violations
- Change present “vague” definition of an employer to allow prosecution of responsible corporate officers and supervisors, and
- Provide more law enforcement resources to prosecute criminal cases.
Should good companies agree?
When Uhlmann was the top environmental cop in the Justice Department, a business owner in Idaho got the longest jail term ever for an environmental crime — 17 years — for maiming a 20-year-old for life by sending him into a cyanide slush tank without PPE.
Uhlmann expects good companies to agree because it would level the playing field and force “bad actors” to incur the same expenses for good safety and health programs.
Do you agree with Uhlmann that good companies should want tougher penalties for OSHA violations? Let us know in the Comments Box below.