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COSH Network News 2012
Though it is rare for the U.S. Department of Justice to impose criminal sanctions on an employer, the settlement shows the need for a stronger OSH Act that allows for more criminal sanctions on negligent employers, said Tom O´Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.
Unlike violations of federal environmental laws, employer misconduct leading to a worker´s death can only be prosecuted as a misdemeanor under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. As a result, few cases are referred to the Department of Justice and even fewer are prosecuted. This is a gross injustice to the families of those people who lose their lives on the job due to employer negligence or misconduct, said O’Connor.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) says the new rule not only threatens food safety, but:
It puts workers’ safety on the line. Already, 59 percent of poultry workers develop carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries. Increasing the line speed to 175 birds a minute will undoubtedly take a toll on the workers.
This incident occurred only a day after BP reached a $4.5 billion settlement for its own 2010 catastrophic oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), this latest incident should be a wake-up call for an industry that has demonstrated a culture valuing production over safety.
“We call on the leaders of the oil and gas industry to take all necessary measures to ensure that workers are encouraged to report safety hazards, and that no one is disciplined for expressing their concerns about safety on the job,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of COSH. “Furthermore, U.S. regulators should adopt the approach taken by the U.K. and Norway, in which oil producers are required to prepare detailed analyses and plans prior to obtaining drilling permits.”
“For years, the oil and gas industry has been characterized by a culture that values production over safety,” executive director Tom O'Connor said, citing the BP spill and refinery accidents in Texas City, Texas, and Richmond, California. “We call on the leaders of the oil and gas industry to take all necessary measures to ensure that workers are encouraged to report safety hazards.”
Tom O’Connor, Executive Director, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, called the fine amount is “a drop in the bucket” compared to BP’s $5.5 billion profit last quarter.
“Real justice for the 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion would be a strengthened OSH Act that allows for proper sanctions for all employers whose negligence lead to the loss of lives of their employees,” said O’Connor. “Following the BP disaster, Congress failed to take action to strengthen the criminal prosecution provisions of the OSH Act. “
O’Connor urged Congress to revisit the issue and institute “long overdue” reforms of the nation’s outdated worker safety laws.
Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said the BP settlement shows a need for a stronger Occupational Safety and Health Act that allows for more criminal sanctions on “negligent employers.”
“Since OSHA was created in 1970, there have been more than 200,000 workplace deaths, yet only a tiny percentage of these led to criminal enforcement,” said O’Connor. “Between 2003 and 2008, only 10 criminal cases were brought for violations of the OSH Act, despite the fact that OSHA conducted nearly 10,000 fatality investigations during that time.”
Calling BP’s $4.5 billion fine “a drop in the bucket” compared to its $5.5 billion profit last quarter alone, O’Connor added: “Real justice for the 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion would be a strengthened OSH Act that allows for proper sanctions for all employers whose negligence lead to the loss of lives of their employees.”
Tom O’Connor, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, says cones are not enough protection and too much attention has been focused on the driver in the case.
"The real problem is that that driver should never have been able to get close to that spot. You have to assume that drivers are going to be driving carelessly at some point and you have to put in barriers to prevent those drivers from coming close to the people who are doing the work," O'Connor said.