Friday, March 4, 2011

BIG company, but small OSHA penalties for workplace fatalities

Samuel Nelson Moyer
LAPLACE, LA -- "Roxanne Moyer wondered why managers at her husband's worksite would allow an obvious dangerous condition to exist. Workers could be so "close to molten steel [that it] just poured over on them." Her husband, Samuel Moyer, 32 died earlier this month at Arcelor Mittal's LaPlace, Lousiania steel mill in exactly that way. He was fatally burned with molten steel.
Mrs. Moyer sounds like a generous and forgiving soul, saying:
'I don't want it to happen to anybody else. And they've already changed things there. We've talked to fellow workers, and they've already put up a shield there and you can't even get that close to it anymore.'
I'm not so tolerant. How is it that the world's largest steel company, with revenues topping $78 Billion in 2010, can ignore such a hazard? They didn't do anything about it until after a worker was killed?
Part of the problem is there are no meaningful consequences for employers who violate safety regulations that lead to worker injuries or deaths. Under workers' compensation law, it is next to impossible for a surviving family to sue their loved one's employer. Under OSHA, the maximum penalty for a serious violation is only $7,000. That penalty figure hasn't been updated since 1991; in today's dollars its only worth $4,400."

-- Celeste Monforton, The Pump Handle blog

Read the whole story