Workers in Scranton, Bradford, Schuykill, Lehigh, Monroe, and surrounding areas depend upon their employers to create a safe worksite for them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) passes regulations related to worker safety and employers are supposed to abide by them. A workers' compensation lawyer knows that enforcement of OSHA efforts is inconsistent, the agency is understaffed, and the process of passing new regulations moves slowly.
Although OSHA is not perfect, the agency took some positive steps forward in 2014 to protect injured employees, hold employers of unsafe workplaces accountable, and encourage better safety efforts. Safety News Alert recently looked back at the top OSHA trends of 2014. Many of these trends could continue forward in the new year and could help to improve working conditions for employees.
Important OSHA Trends in 2014
Some important OSHA trends in 2014 that could have a long-term impact on worker safety if the trends continue include the following:
- More prosecutions for violators of OSHA regulations. There are far too few situations in which employers who commit violations of OSHA regulations are held accountable, even when workers are seriously injured or killed. In 2014, however, OSHA and law enforcement agencies did move forward with several prosecutions. In one case, a California CEO faced a potential four years of incarceration after being charged with involuntary manslaughter when a carpenter working for his company was buried alive. In another, a CEO pleaded guilty after a worker was killed by a 15-foot fall. His sentence included $20,000 in fines, three years of probation and restitution. When CEOs are criminally prosecuted, this can act as a strong deterrent for workplace safety violations. Hopefully, more criminal prosecutions will continue in 2015.
- Broader use of the General Duty clause. There are times when employers are negligent and fail to protect the safety of their workers, but there is no OSHA regulation the employer specifically violated that applies to the incident. The General Duty clause can be used in these types of situation to cite employers for non-specific violations. OSHA used the general duty clause more in 2014, particularly in situations where employees suffered health problems resulting from chemical exposure. OSHA has been trying for a very long time to update regulations related to chemicals but has not yet been successful. The use of the general duty clause makes it possible for employers to be held accountable even though the law moves slowly in terms of creating effective regulations.
- More willful violations citations. Larger fines and penalties can be assessed when an employer is accused of willful violations. OSHA used willful violations more frequently in 2014, in one case seeking $697,000 in fines.
- Recording of ergonomic injuries. OSHA issued several general duty citations because of hazards that led to musculoskeletal disorder. Ergonomic injuries are not as regulated as effectively as they should be.
If these trends continue and OSHA is more aggressive at coming after employers who violate safety rules in 2015, hopefully employers will have more incentive to keep workplaces safe and fewer employees will be injured or killed on the job in this upcoming year.
A Scranton accident attorney at O'Malley & Langan can help. Call (800) 817-2667 or visit www.omalleylangan.com today to schedule your free consultation. Serving Lackawanna, Luzerne, Bradford, Schuykill, Lehigh, Monroe, Wyoming and Wayne counties and surrounding areas.