A number of prior posts on our Pennsylvania blog have discussed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in connection with a variety of workplace injuries and accidents. When an employee is injured or killed on the job, OSHA’s responsibility is to discover whether the company followed proper safety procedures during the incident in question. And a recent study has revealed that OSHA inspections do in fact reduce the number of workplace hazards.
But in the minds of some family members of injured workers, OSHA does not go far enough. To them, there appears to be a disconnect between OSHA’s stated role as a rules enforcer and how it actually carries out that duty in practice. For example, OSHA may fine companies that break safety regulations, but those financial penalties are often negotiated downward to a lesser amount. Some family members feel that justice is not being done.
Indeed, some have argued that the fines themselves are inadequate. They have advocated increasing the limit for fines, which currently sits at $7,000 for serious violations, but most federal legislators have balked at the idea, citing potential harm to businesses. For its part, OSHA has asserted that its task is not so much to penalize companies or to investigate the cause of an accident, but to ensure that companies do not run afoul of safety rules in the future.
Workers and their families can find relief in the workers’ compensation laws, however. In addition to providing death benefits to the surviving family members of an employee killed at work, the laws also help injured employees replace lost wages and cover medical expenses.
Source: The Northwestern, “Wisconsin companies face little penalty when workers die,” Nick Penzenstadler, July 20, 2012.
• Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can be vital. If you would like to learn more about our firm’s practice, please visit our Bucks County workers’ compensation page.