It appears Wyoming Senate leadership may kill a widely-supported bill to increase penalties for workplace safety violations that result in a fatality, by not bringing it to the floor.
Senate File 72 would give the Wyoming Occupational Health and Safety Administration authority to levy a fine up to $50,000 for companies smaller than 250 employees, and up to $250,000 for companies with 250 employees or more.
It’s up to Senate Majority Floor Leader Eli Bebout (R-Riverton) to bring SF 72 to floor. If that doesn’t happen by end of day Friday, the measure will die. Bebout has said he is uncomfortable with how quickly the bill — sponsored by the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee — has moved through the legislative process.
The measure comes after nearly a decade of testimony from worker advocates and workers’ families warning that OSHA penalties are so low they do not work as a deterrent to risky behavior among employers. Even the most serious OSHA violations that result in injury or death often culminate in fines of $10,000 or less.
“It’s just offensive to people when a family member dies and the penalty is so low,” Rep. Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne), a sponsor of the measure, told WyoFile in October. “The frustration I’ve had … is it’s time to stop just expressing sympathy and time to do something.”
Employers who pay into Wyoming’s workers’ compensation program cannot be sued in civil court for their own negligence. So there’s no recourse for families of workers who have been injured and killed on the job. They look to OSHA to bring about some level of accountability for companies guilty of violating safety regulations.
But what happens when employers who are fined by OSHA don’t even bother paying the fine? Turns out, not much.
Wyoming Department of Workforce Services director Joan Evans recently testified to lawmakers that fines often go unpaid. Outstanding fines to Wyoming OSHA, dating back to 2011, total $117,000 among 27 employers.
WyoFile requested the names of companies with outstanding debt to Wyoming OSHA. The department supplied the following information, based on “closed cases.”
I’m extrapolating that the Legislative response to the hue and cry for stronger workplace safety laws and stiffer fines would come in the form of an “Excrement Occurs Act”. If the tong and chain breaks and shatters the bones the floorhand on the drilling rig, tough. Excrement occurs. If the 80 ton coal truck loses its brakes and runs over a mineworker , too bad. Excrement occurs. If a sugar beet plant worker falls to death for lack of a railing on a walkway , that’s sad. But she should have been more careful where she walked and be always aware that —yup, you guessed it — excrement occurs.
It comes with the job . If you don’t like it, don’t step in it. No different than getting electrocuted in your home bathtub or run over in a crosswalk by a teenage texter. Personal responsibility trumps rules and regs here in Wyoming .It’s never the company’s fault. Workplace safety is in the mind of the worker. You wanna keep your job ? Keep your mind on your job . We don’t need no job cop bureaucracy and gubbamint intrusion , ‘ cuz it’s Wyoming . We can just blow it off by saying in the presence of more than two people at the scene of the accident , ahem , ” Excrement Occurs” and get back to work. . Sh_t happens around here all the time…