Safety violations issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration often come with sizable fines.
Yet OSHA's laws for workplace safety are intended to be proactive. If a workplace hazard is discovered, the penalty scheme encourages an employer to take action. For that reason, when an employer fails to remedy the situation and incurs repeat citations, those penalties may be even greater. Under federal law, a repeat violation is defined as an employer's violation of a safety standard, rule, order or regulation within a period of five years.
Unfortunately, the escalated fines for repeat safety violations weren't enough to prod one Oklahoma employer into action. The company, Pride Plating Inc., came under scrutiny in 2009 when OSHA officials discovered that its spray painting and dip tank activity were exposing workers to a cancer-causing chemical called hexavalent chromium.
The company employs around 110 workers in Grove, Oklahoma. Sadly, it seems that those workers may be at risk, as OSHA officials again cited the company in September 2014 for the same safety violations. In sum, inspectors found 38 violations, implicating $341,550 in penalties.
As an attorney that focuses on workers' compensation claims knows, a company may sometimes be more concerned about its financial bottom line than workplace safety. When OSHA fines fail to be a catalyst for change, a workers' compensation lawsuit might be needed.
The tragedy in this story is that the proposed safety remedies were so simple: respirators and protective clothing could have spared workers from the dangerous exposure. For workers that have been injured, it will be important to consult with an attorney to pursue all of their rights.
Source: Claims Journal, "Oklahoma Plating Company Fined $341.5K for Workplace Safety Violations," Sept. 22, 2014