This may sound like a dumb question in view of the fact that fines were just raised in November of 2016.
There is a cry going out in the industry that is yes fines should be raised more. One simple reason is that 90% of employers are not in compliance. Another school of thought is that for the larger companies the amount of the fines that are now being assessed is like going out to a nice dinner and only having to cover the tip for the waiter.
Another reason that some ask the question should Cal-OSHA raise their fines is because if someone is killed or loses a limb the fines are not really that high. One point that is not being mentioned is that the fine is usually nothing compared to the civil suit that follows the fine.
Let’s take a look at a couple and cases and you can draw your own conclusions.
San Diego Gas and Electric Company
An inspector was sent out to do an inspection. The flooring that the inspector was standing on gave way. He fell 7 feet and crashed into some valves before he hit the concrete seven 7 feet below.
During the accident investigation, it was discovered that the flooring had been reported bad five years earlier and had not been replaced or repaired. San Diego Gas and Electric was hit with a willful violation which carries with it a very stiff penalty. The penalty, in this case, was $70,000 thousand dollars.
Appeals offer employers a reduction
Here is another reason why the question should Cal-OSHA raise their fines is a valid question. A company can get hit with a very big fine for example if an employee is killed in the accident and the investigation shows that this was either a willful or repeat offense. For more information on this check out this link.
By the way, a willful violation is the second most serious category there is for Cal-OSHA. The number one serious fine is the repeat category. One thing to consider is that many of these companies are larger companies and it is fairly easy to absorb the fine. Secondly, by the time the appeals process is thru the fine may very well be reduced to half of what is originally was.
A common thread that weighs in on the question should Cal-OSHA raise their fines is that many of these companies are failing to make the necessary repairs. By in large, most companies are not conducting their hazard inspections and then fixing the hazards that they find while on the inspection.
Many employers are not conducting safety training as it should be done. Yes, failure to comply is a very big issue in this matter.
Smaller Companies are stuck in the middle concerning Cal-OSHA Compliance.
I was at a speaking engagement once when I found out that this older gentleman about my age now was no longer in business after being in business for over 30 years. During the dinner, I found out that Cal-OSHA had come into his automotive repair shop and fined him $100,000. This put him out of business.
So as I look around besides the non-compliance of employers it seems to me that the smaller companies get bullied and pushed around because Cal-OSHA enforcement knows that these smaller companies cannot afford to hire a big gun to protect them.
What is the solution?
I don’t really know what the entire solution is but if you are a small to midsize company getting your business in compliance is what is in your best interest. Find yourself a good Cal-OSHA ConsultingService, along with a good Labor Law Consultant.
Another problem for employers today is the employment lawsuits are on the rise. Because of this, it is wise to make sure that your employee handbook, and your state and federal postings are current.
Not only should your employee handbook be current but it needs to be written in a way that will protect your rights as an employee. Employee lawsuits can cost a minimum of $60.000 dollars to defend.
So, it is easy to see that the question should Cal-OSHA raise their fines is not the only question that needs to be answered.
If you would like to know more give us a call, we love questions and we have been helping employer protect their rights since 1997