Oregon Legislators Weigh Increasing the Penalties for Workplace Health and Safety Violations after Years of Extremely Low State Fines

Oregon has a long unfortunate history of handing out very small fines to companies caught violating workplace safety laws and rules. Currently, the statutory minimum for serious violations is only $100. When it comes your workplace accident, taking the proper legal steps on a timely basis may be crucial both to getting the financial recovery you deserve and also holding those responsible for your harm (or your loved one’s death) accountable for their actions. That process starts with the crucial first step of retaining the services of a knowledgeable Oregon workplace accident lawyer.

Recently, OregonLive.com recounted the story of M.V., a mill worker in Prineville who nearly lost a finger in a saw accident. The worker required surgical reattachment of her ring finger, which the saw had almost completely amputated. The injury caused long-term pain and limitation of movement. The state investigated and found that the saw lacked a proper guard and M.V. hadn’t received proper training on the tool. The mill also had a history of unsafe machinery and untrained workers.

The state fined the mill $780.

In January of last year, a construction worker died in West Linn excavation accident. The vehicle that killed him had neither functioning brakes nor a working horn. State investigators found multiple violations that “could lead to a high probability of death” and that “with reasonable diligence, (the) employer could have known” the horn and brakes were broken.

The state fined the construction firm $5,400.

In 2020, a Salem farm worker died when a hay bale fell on him. The state investigated and found unsafe bale storage practices and “an unsafe process of laying out plastic sheathing in the vicinity of stacked hay bales.”
The state, however, issued no citation and no fine.

If a new bill in the Oregon Senate becomes law, the fines the state hands out in some cases like these might be more substantial in the future.

How Oregon Workplace Safety Enforcement Stacks Up

Senate Bill 592 would demand that Oregon OSHA “substantially raise its fines to align with federal OSHA.” Currently, the federal government deems $2,325-$3,875 to be the “acceptable range” for serious violations of workplace health and safety laws and rules. During Fiscal Year 2021, the average fine Oregon OSHA issued for a serious violation was $620.

In incidents involving worker deaths, the average fine from Oregon OSHA was approximately $3,700. The national average is closer to $11,000-$12,000.

In addition, the proposed law would “require the state worker safety division to conduct comprehensive inspections of any workplace where a worker dies or a business commits three or more willful or repeated violations in a one-year period,” according to the OregonLive report.

This office supports measures that will enhance worker safety and employers’ commitment and motivation to ensure safe workplaces. In a lot of workplace injury circumstances, the blame for the accident extends beyond just your employer. Third parties like repair people, maintenance professionals, machine and product manufacturers, commercial contractors and subcontractors, supplies, vendors, and others may have culpability for your loss. When that happens, you may be able to pursue (and win) an industrial accident action, the outcome of which can represent a critical component of your overall compensation. Winning such a case requires careful investigation and powerful evidence to determine who was negligent and to what degree.

Third party industrial accident cases can be some of the most complex, and the skilled Oregon industrial accident attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC offer decades of experience handling these challenging matters. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation to find out how we can help.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
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