Workers Comp: New Report Calls for Increased Penalties for Unsafe Work Places
In April, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health released a report that includes several recommendations, including for states to adopt stricter workplace safety regulations. The report suggests that states require their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines to be at least $25,000 for serious violations resulting in a death and $50,000 for repeat or willful violation resulting in a death. According to the report, many of the 4,600 worker deaths that were reported nationwide in 2011 were preventable. Not only will a stronger emphasis on safety help prevent fatal injuries but it will also impact a company’s Workers Compensation insurance program.
Influencing the high rate of deaths in part is the boom we’ve seen over the last several years in the energy industry. The report says that workers have been experiencing increased pressure to meet greater production levels, leading to an unsafe work environment. “The booming energy industry has created a lot of jobs. But it also created intense pressure for production that often leads to unsafe working conditions,” said Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupation and Health. “Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear about another disaster in the energy industry.”
Another important aspect of the report highlights the disproportionate fatality rate for Hispanic workers, with 4.2 deaths per 100,000 Hispanic workers, compared with 3.7 deaths per 100,000 for all U.S. workers. According to Jessica Martinez, assistant director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA must improve outreach efforts in Spanish and other languages to ensure workers from other countries understand their rights, particularly because these employees often work in high-risk jobs.
Another workplace safety problem, according to the report, is long-term exposure to hazardous materials and environments, which resulted in about 10 times as many deaths as acute injuries in 2007. More than 50,000 people died that year from long-term exposure on the job, said a 2011 analysis by economist J. Paul Leigh. Exposure to silica dust found in construction materials, such as asphalt, concrete and grout, can cause impaired lung function and lead to lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and autoimmune disorders, the report cites. An estimate from OSHA said 688 lives could be saved by reducing worker exposure to the dust.
Workplace deaths, says the report, can be prevented with companies prioritizing worker safety, increased fines for unsafe job conditions, and encouraging workers to speak up about problems.
Caitlin Morgan offers a number of Workers Compensation insurance solutions, including guaranteed cost, large-deductible programs, self-insurance programs, captive programs, along with risk management to help pinpoint exposures and prevent losses. Please give us a call at 877.226.1027 to find out how we can help you secure coverage for your insureds.
Sources: Arizona Daily Star, Wyoming News