"The Voice of Wyoming's Construction Industry"
OSHA FATALITY FINE BILL UP NEXT WEEK
The Wyoming State Legislature’s Joint Interim Labor and Health Committee is considering legislation that would impose a minimum $50,000 fine on employers for workplace fatalities. The legislation will be considered by the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee at their meeting in Cheyenne Monday and Tuesday next week.
The bill proposed a $50,000 penalty on top of existing OSHA penalties if a fatality occurs as a result of an OSHA violation that “materially” contributes to the fatality.
The bill attempts to distinguish employers and/or owners that may be responsible for fatalities, but also establishes waivers from the fatality fine if: the fatality was of an individual that owned 10% or more of the company responsible for the fatality; an owner or employer is severely injured or killed in the incident; or upon appeals, it is successfully argued that the OSHA violation did not materially contribute to the fatality.
The bill as proposed further establishes fines for OSHA employees who do not issue fines or prevents the issuance of fines.
The Wyoming Construction Coalition is deeply concerned by this bill as it does not focus on preventing fatalities and injuries, instead it focuses state resources on assigning blame after incidents occur. The bill will be subject to a wide swath of individual interpretation including differences in what perceived OSHA violations occur and if they actually materially contribute to an incident. These interpretations are further complicated by the addition of fines for state employees who do not issue fines, almost certainly leading to an increase in questionable citations as the result of OSHA employees being abundantly cautious.
“The proposed bill will not materially contribute to safer workplaces in Wyoming,” says WCC President Josh Carnahan, “Instead, OSHA employees that are already overwhelmed with current responsibilities, will be conducting intense, massive investigations, and issuing more questionable citations after fatalities occur to cover their base so they are not issued a fine for not issuing citations. All this takes away valuable resources that would be much better utilized on the front-end to work with employers to prevent fatalities and injuries in the first place.”
In addition, fines collected for OSHA violations, do not contribute to improving safety in any way. According to Wyoming Statute 27-11-107 section (h), fines that are issued for OSHA violations in Wyoming are paid to the county treasurer of the county in which the violation occurs and credited to the county school fund. OSHA fines are not utilized for state safety programs, safety grants, they are not used to enhance workplace safety, the money goes directly to local school districts.
While employers are subject to penalties and fines issued by OSHA, public entities are exempt. Chapter 3, Section 6 of the current Wyoming OSHA Practice and Procedure Rules, paragraph (h), exempts public entities, local and state governments, from OSHA fines. This dramatically limits, if not hamstrings OSHA’s ability to enforce any safety regulations on government entities in Wyoming.
Efforts are already underway to issue rules to ensure public entities are subject to the same safety rules, regulations and enforcement that private industry deals with every day.
“There will always be a need to improve the safety record in Wyoming,” says Carnahan, “We need everyone under the same umbrella, abiding by the same rules working to improve safety through awareness, individual responsibility and reasonable regulations,”
“We must keep our focus on preventing every accident, every fatality before they ever occur.”