Safety News Alert reported recently on the owner of a roofing company who failed to pay a fine levied by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA). OSHA fined the company owner for safety violations 11 times between 2000 and 2011. The company owner refused to pay and refused to correct the violations, even after OSHA obtained an order from a federal district court. The court has now moved to hold the company owner in civil contempt for defying a court order. If the owner does not pay his $404,484 plus interest and fees and submit proof of the corrected hazards, he could be jailed.
OSHA fines are intended to deter employers and companies from wrongdoing. The more serious the violations, the larger the fines. Employers need to be aware of the potential for large financial penalties and possible jail time for refusal to pay. Employees also need to be aware when an employer is cited for violating safety rules, because workers may not want to take jobs with companies that clearly do not take safety seriously.
Workers' compensation provides benefits after a workplace injury, regardless of whether an employer violated safety rules. Still, when an employee knows his or her company has a record of violations, the employee can be more cautious in protecting his legal interests and ensuring a careless company does not put him at risk.
How Many Companies in PA Have Faced Big OSHA Fines?
OSHA has now create a new website intended to make it easier for workers to become informed about high risk employers in their area. OSHA's page provides details on companies and enforcement cases with the largest fines for safety violations in the local area. The page lists OSHA cases where the initial fine levied against the employer was $40,000 or higher. Cases brought against employers since January 1, 2015 are listed. The information also includes the scope of the investigation, the type of inspection OSHA conducted, the number and type of violations, the OSHA standard cited for each violation, and whether the employer has abated the violation.
OSHA's table of high risk employers who have received large violations has 15 Pennsylvania employers. Several of the employers have multiple violations, including one construction company with three violations. Initial penalties levied against the 15 PA companies violating OSHA rules ranged from $42,350.00 in fines to $490,000. The fines and citations were issued between February of 2015 and July of 2015.
While some employers are able to appeal or to negotiate to pay lesser penalties, the large fines OSHA assessed against these violating companies will hopefully act as a deterrent to prevent future harmful behavior putting workers at risk. OSHA is understaffed and cannot always conduct enough inspections to catch all workplace violations, but when the agency does act or when violations are reported, significant fines can help to ensure companies do not make repeated safety errors.