I recently read this very interesting blog post by Kyle W. Morrison that I would like to bring to your attention.
The post was originally in Safety+Health magazine, which is “published by the National Safety Council (and) offers comprehensive national coverage of occupational safety news and analysis of industry trends to 86,000 subscribers.” Morrison is senior associate editor.
To change a well-worn phrase a bit around, if you’re a business faced with an OSHA investigation, what you don’t know can hurt you. And that’s as it should be, because what your business doesn’t know about compliance can definitely hurt workers.
But an Alabama lawmaker, who, according to the article was a former practicing attorney, argued for leniency for businesses during a hearing where OSHA administrator David Michaels said he would continue to fine employers for violations, even when no one was injured and the employer fixed the issue.
“How are they going to know they’re out of compliance?” (Rep. Mike) Rogers (R-AL) asked, cutting Michaels off (as quoted in the blog post). “I just find it obscene. It’s different if somebody had been injured, and you’d be right with that logic. But if somebody is not injured and you just find it during an inspection, give them a reasonable amount of time to fix it. And if they fix it, free pass.”
But ignorance is not an excuse, as the blog post pointed out and that Rep. Rogers, as a lawyer, should know.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Act makes it clear that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for employees, and the rules in the act apply to employers,” Morrison wrote.
That is one of the many reasons that states letting businesses opt out of workers’ compensation systems is not an OK or safe solution for workers. Attitudes like Rep. Rogers’ show that businesses should be held accountable to someone, like the state or OSHA, for safety. Left to their own devices, many companies would just choose to plead ignorance and go on with their day.