WASHINGTON — Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Dr. David Michaels testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Michaels shared the U.S. Department of Labor’s views on the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), particularly the issue of enhanced penalties.
“Most employers want to do the right thing. But many others will only comply with OSHA rules if there are strong incentives to do so. OSHA’s current penalties are often not large enough to provide adequate incentives, and we are very low in comparison with those of other public health agencies,” said Michaels. “Clearly, OSHA can never put a price on a worker’s life. It is vital that OSHA be empowered to send a stronger message, especially when a life is needlessly lost.”
PAWA would improve the OSH Act by raising penalties for violations of the law, strengthening workers’ voices in the workplace, expanding the rights of victims and their families, expanding OSHA coverage to public employees, and requiring the abatement of serious, willful and repeat hazards during the citation contest period.
The legislation will also subject employers who knowingly put their workers in harm’s way, that results in a fatality or serious injury, to felony prosecution and prison time, equivalent to other federal laws, such as the penalties environmental cases.
“Adding felony provisions to the OSH Act, as proposed, would provide important tools to prosecute those employers who expose their workers to the risk of death or serious injury, whether charged in conjunction with environmental crimes or charged alone,” said John Cruden, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Click to read the full transcript.
Looks like OSHA is gearing up for a busy year! With new laws regarding ergonomics as well as increasing their enforcement power. Stay tuned for more information about OSHA and changes.