In our last post, we looked at the statistics pertaining to on-the-job injuries in Ohio and throughout the nation. According to statistics, you would think that workplaces are getting safer. The number of workplace accidents and fatalities has decreased in the past two years.
Unfortunately, the improved statistics are a reflection of unemployment, not safer work regulations.
A recent article in the Huffington Post criticized OSHA as well as current and past presidential administrations for OSHA’s inability to efficiently protect the workplaces in its jurisdictions. Although it is not financially feasible to revamp OSHA, there are steps that could be taken to better protect the safety of employees in the workplace.
Perhaps one of the biggest areas OSHA needs to improve is in the way in which employers who break OSHA regulations are punished. A law professor quoted in the article stated, “In the entire history of OSHA there have been less than a hundred prosecutions.”
The professor went on to say that the financial penalty for OSHA rule-breakers is too small. When businesses compare the likelihood of getting caught breaking OSHA regulations with the likely criminal fines if they are caught, they “can write it into the cost of doing business.”
When David Michaels became head of OSHA at the end of 2009, he raised that point. He asked Congress to give OSHA the power to award harsher fines to violators, and the penalties are still relatively low. However, something seems to be changing.
According to a report from OSHA, there were “more cases, fines and jail time in  than during OSHA’s entire history.” Hopefully the new trend of prosecuting unsafe employers will keep the numbers of workplace accidents low – and this time, because of actual changes to the laws governing workplace safety.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Deaths Decline Due To Recession, Not New Safety Regulations,” Lila Shapiro, 28 April 2011