Congress and safety officials are considering increased fines and even jail time for owners in an effort to increase workplace safety. But some business leaders say stiffer fines won’t reduce accidents.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has introduced legislation that seeks to increase fines and criminal penalties for safety violations. Reid’s bill parallels one introduced in the House.
If the bill is passed:
- Fines for willful and repeat violations would increase, with the minimum increasing from $5,000 to $8,000 and the maximum from $70,000 to $120,000.
- The maximum fine for serious, failure-to-abate and other-than-serious violations would increase from $7,000 to $12,000.
- If a violation causes an employee’s death, civil penalties could range from $50,000 to $250,000, with $25,000 the minimum for companies with 25 or fewer workers, and
- The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration could also pursue criminal charges against a company for an employee’s death, including fines and up to 10 years in prison for owners and managers. Criminal penalties for serious bodily injury to an employee could include up to 5 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Oregon’s OSHA administrator, Michael Wood, is considering raising fines for safety violations and basing them on a sliding scale by number of employees.
Oregon made the news recently for workplace safety when it fined ConAgra $65,000 in connection with a February incident in which a welder was killed in a potato processing plant.
Wood says he realizes a $65,000 fine won’t have a great effect on a giant company such as ConAgra.
Oregon business leaders interviewed by the Daily Journal of Commerce agree that high OSHA fines won’t make companies any safer.
“Money is not the motivator,” said Dan Kavanaugh, vice president of Turner Construction Co. “A fine doesn’t mean anything to us.”
Do you think higher OSHA fines would cause companies to improve their safety? Let us know in the Comments Box below.