Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Senators Push Legislation to Toughen OSHA Penalties

In honor of Workers Memorial Day (see below) and the thousands of workers who die every year in the workplace, Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) have renewed the campaign for stronger sanctions against employers who willfully kill workers. Legislation introduced by Corzine would increase the maximum prison sentence to 10 years from six months for willful safety violations that result in deaths.

The proposal to toughen penalties comes in response to the New York Times stories showing the poor record of OSHA and the Justice Department in going after high fines and jail time for employers guilty of willfully killing their employees.

And what do the Bush Administration and Republican Congressional leadership think about high penalties for employers who willfully kill workers? Guess.
Commerce Secretary Donald Evans called the Corzine-Kennedy proposal "just another policy to destroy jobs.'' House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the proposal would be "the worst thing that you could do -- telling a small business person that they could go to prison over an OSHA violation.''
The worst thing you could do? Funny, I think willfully putting someone in an environment where they're going to die is worse.

Update: rawblogXport points out a rather serious "typo" in the AP article cited above:
sometimes a typo is more than a misplaced decimal, especially on such a timely topic - compare the following article, run by dozens of newspapers today, with the article below it posted 02/25/2004:

Families Lobby for Workplace Safety By Jeffrey McMurray, AP
In an investigative series on workplace deaths, The New York Times last year found 1,242 cases between 1982 and 2002 in which OSHA concluded workers had died because of 'willful' safety violations by employers. OSHA sought prosecution on only 93 percent of those cases. There were only 11 convictions.

Justice Dept. Drops Most Criminal OSHA Referrals
Critics in Congress and elsewhere have been hammering OSHA ever since a recent New York Times article revealed that over the past 20 years, the agency failed to seek criminal prosecution against 93 percent of the companies whose willful violations of safety rules caused workers to die.