When workplaces lack appropriate worker safety protections, serious and sometimes life-changing (or even fatal) accidents are too often the result. Sometimes, you, as an injured worker, may be entitled to restorative relief through an industrial accident lawsuit. These cases can be highly complex, making representation from a knowledgeable Oregon industrial accident lawyer especially valuable.
One factor that can help workers to receive safer workplaces is the threat of OSHA fines from the state. The fines the State of Oregon hands out to employers operating unsafe workplaces have historically been among the lowest in the country, even when the safety violations were obvious and substantial. For example, one construction worker in West Linn died in an accident caused by a heavy-duty loader with no working brakes or horn. Despite finding that the safety violations carried a “high probability of death and that ‘with reasonable diligence, (the) employer could have known that the loader’s brakes and horn were not operating properly’,” Oregon OSHA fined the excavation company only $5,400.
Those fines will be increasing going forward. Earlier this month, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that forces Oregon OSHA to lift its minimum fine amounts to mirror the minimum fines federal OSHA requires. According to The Oregonian, that means raising minimum fines by more than 1,000% in some circumstances.
The Increasing Penalties for ‘Serious’ Violations…
In the past, entities that committed a serious violation could receive an adjusted fine of as little as $100. Under the new bill, that minimum climbs to $1,116. For serious violations leading to a worker’s death, the bill would force Oregon OSHA to issue a fine of between $20,000 and $50,000. In the past, the maximum for these fines was $13,653… and could be less than $400.
Oregon OSHA considers serious violations as those “that could result in… injuries and illnesses that significantly reduce a worker’s physical or mental efficiency by inhibiting, either temporarily or permanently, the normal function of a body part.”
…and ‘Willful’ Ones, As Well
In the past, if Oregon OSHA found that a violation was “willful,” then that triggered a fine of as much as $135,653 but as little as $9,753. Those numbers go up under the new bill to a maximum of $156,259. The minimum will climb to $11,162. In this state, a “willful” violation requires that the employer demonstrated “either an intentional or purposeful disregard for the requirements of the Oregon Safe Employment Act or a plain indifference to employee safety and health.”
As an example, late last year, the state fined a Beaverton construction company more than $40,000 for a willful violation of the fall protection requirement. Part of what demonstrated willfulness was that, just over a year earlier, the state fined the same construction firm for a serious violation of the same fall protection standard on another roofing job.
Additionally, the bill substantially raises the penalties for willful or repeated violations that result in death, placing the minimum at $50,000 and the maximum at $250,000. Previously, these fines maxed out at $135,653.
When you’ve been injured (or a loved one killed) in a workplace accident, the experienced Oregon industrial accident attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are here to provide reliable answers to your questions. Whether or not your case is one that may lend itself to an industrial accident action, we can provide you with beneficial information about the legal steps that may (or will) lie ahead. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.