At a recent Senate hearing, formerÂ OSHA Assistant Secretary Jerry Scannell (1989-1993) described the pressure he often felt, especially from lawyersÂ inside and outside the agency, to settle inspection and fatality-investigation cases byÂ usingÂ âdiscount factorsâÂ to reduce monetary penalties.Â He recalled wondering, âWhat are we, a discount house?âÂ Â Reporter Andy Pierrotti with WSPA-TV (Spartanburg/Greenville, SC) has found exactly the same “discount house” mentalityÂ throughÂ his investigation of SC-OSHA.Â HisÂ story isÂ entitled “Discounted Lives.”
Pierrotti assembled record from the last four years to demonstrate how SC-OSHA,Â reduce assessed penalties in order to settle cases againstÂ the employers responsible for the workers’ deaths.Â He also relays the shock of family membersÂ after learning howÂ already nominalÂ finesÂ become meaningless through the settlement process.
The monetary penalty assessed againstÂ 22-year oldÂ Travis Wood’s employer wasÂ reduced from $15,225 to $2,700.Â The young Mr. Wood died in April 2007 from a 31-foot fall at Automated Distribution Center in Gaffney, SC.
Mrs. Carma Magnani’s husband Ronald, 59, was severely injured at workÂ and later died at the hospital.Â His employer, Cryovac, was initially fined $3,500 which was reduced to $1,500.
The WSPA reporter Pierrotti found examples of penalty reductions even for companies with repeat injuries and violations.
Our investigation also found reduced fines involving companies with repeat accidents or violations, like the Michelin plant in Sandy Springs. In 2006, one person died from burns involving an exposed water pipe. A few months later, another Michelin worker’s arm, crushed and then amputated, after getting caught in a machine.Â While both accidents involved clear safety violations, both fines: significantly cut through settlement agreements.
Pierrotti’s assessment “Discounted Lives” is a MUST read.
One thought on “Yes, they are a discount house”
While at the UAW, I often told OSHA and MiOSHA that I’d rather see no fine at all after a fatality than the penalty dollars imposed.
Nevertheless, the excuse to settle short is written into the OSHA law. An employer who contests a citation is exempt from further enforcement of that standard for the duration of the contest. The employer may do nothing at all to abate the violation.