November 3 - November 7, 2014

The family of a U.S. worker killed on the job is calling for a $50,000 mandatory fine if a workplace hazard is found to "materially contribute" to a fatal incident. (The fine in their case was $2,300.) What do you think?

Answers Votes
Good idea. Fatalities should carry higher consequences for employers. 60%
Bad idea. Fine the hazard, not the consequence. 40%

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Tagged categories: Enforcement; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA

Comment from Karen Fischer, (11/3/2014, 8:45 AM)

OSHA should limit it's authority to the hazard. The legal system should address the fatality. Stop giving government more authority over the lives of people. Do you honestly think that OSHA is going to hand over that $50,000 to the family? What good is that $50,000 going to do other than increase revenue for yet another government agency. Repeat offenders should have increased fines and increased inspections. What I always have an issue with is the downplaying of the employees role in the accident. If he or she was poorly trained, then this is an issue for the company, but if you have an employee whose incompetence is protected by a Union, for example.... There are some Unions that make it near close to impossible for a Company to remove an incompetent worker from a job or task... Can we also make the Union responsible. It is a complex issue that a $50,000 fine simply won't solve.

Comment from David Johnson, (11/4/2014, 10:17 AM)

Amen Karen Fischer!....some common sense at last.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (11/4/2014, 11:01 AM)

Although I see where you are coming from, Karen and David, I can also see where giving the OSHA more clout would be beneficial. I agree that the money from the proposed fine won't go to the family of someone killed on the job and that employees also need to take responsibility (and be held responsible) for their own safety...but... Paint Square has shown multiple examples recently of recalcitrant employers who get multiple willful fines (totaling $100,000+)and have long, long records of inspections and violations without paying or with bargaining it down to obscenely small amounts. In my jurisdiction, employees can be fined by the inspectors directly (which takes care of the personal responsibility aspect), but I have yet to see a bad employer actually reformed by the small fines OHSA can levy. Some shutter up (to clear off their records) only to reopen with a new name next month, others just pay the fines as "a cost of doing business." I also have not seen the legal system (other than civil suits, which can take forever and add even more hardship to the deceased's family), step in with many prosecutions. Should OSHA have the ability to shutter companies? Do OSHA inspectors need to be sworn peace officers so they can arrest people and have them charged? I don't know the answer...but I'll continue to do what I can to keep myself and those around me safe while those with the ability to change these things debate the best changes to make.

Comment from Larry Zacharias, (11/4/2014, 4:26 PM)

California changed its laws because fines do not deter some companies. If Cal-OSHA determines that a workplace fatality is the result of a serious and willful violation, the company owner/manager is prosecuted by the district attorney for manslaughter. Juries here do send people to prison after hearing the evidence.

Comment from Anna Jolly, (11/4/2014, 5:30 PM)

Karen, I am curious how the legal system should address the fatality. As is currently the case in most states, Workers Compensation is the only way the legal system takes care of workers and in my state that is often not even a living wage. I would like to hear your alternate proposal. I don't work a lot with unions do I can't address you concerns there, but if employees don't follow the rule they should be fired.

Comment from Regina Montgomery, (11/6/2014, 12:04 PM)

Here in Canada, food establishments that do not pass a public health inspections can have their license revoked after repeated violations (see an example in the link below). Is it the same in the US? Is it possible that more clout is extended to our stomachs on an occasional gastronomical outing than is extended to a worker who performs an 8-12 hour work shift day in and day out, year-round to earn a living wage?

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