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Do Big Fines Motivate Employers To Provide Safe Working Conditions?

When it comes to providing a safe work environment for employees, what motivates companies to do the right thing? For some this may be a moral issue, while others look only at the dollars and cents. In many cases it will cost a company a significant amount of money to implement safety standards and provide the type of work environment which reduces or eliminates an accident or injury on the job. Sadly, in some situations an employer will cut corners to cut costs and the end result can be devastating to a worker who is injured or even killed due to unsafe working conditions.

To encourage employers to follow established safety measures, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is ready and willing to hand out substantial fines for those who do not follow the rules. Employers who try to save money by cutting corners may find the cost of not being safe is much higher than simply following the guidelines set forth within their industry.

Employers are subject to fines from OSHA regardless of whether or not an actual injury has occurred. For example, a recent press release from MMD Newswire reported a NY demolition contractor has been slapped with almost $53,000 in fines for fall and lead hazards. In this situation an OSHA inspection uncovered a situation where employees could potentially fall or be exposed to lead during demolition work.

As stated in the press release, “These are two of the most common and well-known hazards workers can face during demolition operations and must be effectively addressed by the employer on each and every jobsite,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse. “Falls can injure or kill a worker in seconds while lead exposure can damage the kidneys and the central nervous, cardiovascular, reproductive and hematological systems.”

In this situation, the company was charges with two “willful” citations and seven “serious” citations. A willful citation is issued when the employer demonstrates an intentional disregard for the law or outright indifference to the safety of their employees. When a situation can result in death or serious injury, a serious citation will be issued.

If an employer is aware of safety issues and they still refuse to comply, one has to wonder if the consequences are not yet severe enough to encourage all employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees?

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