Altair Law Honors Worker’s Memorial Day04/27/2022an Altair Law Blog post by Jeremy Cloyd
WHAT IS WORKER’S MEMORIAL DAY?
International Worker’s Memorial Day is celebrated in many places around the world. On April 28, 1970, the United States Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (“OSHA”) to guarantee every worker the right to a safe and healthful workplace. Since then, April 28 has been commemorated in the US as Workers’ Memorial Day - a day to remember those who have been killed and injured on the job, the progress towards a safe and healthful workplace, and the additional work needed to achieve worker safety. Many US labor unions such as the AFL-CIO and Teamsters dutifully observe this date with activities and workplace safety campaigns.
There is no debate that workplace safety changes implemented in the more than fifty years since OSHA’s enactment have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But workers remain at risk. In 2020, employers reported 2.7 million work related injury and illness cases and 4,764 fatalities. The more than four thousand percent increase in work-related respiratory illness associated with COVID-19 in 2020 highlights that OSHA’s goals are yet to be attained – especially for those workers associated with healthcare and social assistance.
WHY ARE WORKERS STILL GETTING INJURED ON THE JOB?
One problem is that both state and federal OSHA are understaffed, underfunded, and underpowered to identify hazards and enforce workplace safety.
California employed just 180 safety workplace inspectors in 2021 – a staff capable of inspecting each of California’s workplaces just once every 289 years.
Even when an investigation reveals that a fatality has resulted from a serious safety violation, OSHA does not have the power to dole out meaningful deterrents. In 2021, the average penalty for a serious Cal-OSHA violation was just $2,421. In 2021, the median federal OSHA penalty in an investigation arising from a fatality was $12,930. After employer appeals and settlements that figure was reduced to $9,753.
Civil trial and litigation attorneys, like those at Altair Law, provide a deterrence mechanism currently lacking from regulatory bodies. We frequently rely on OSHA regulations to show the violation of our clients’ rights. In one recent case, our client’s employer blamed him when his hand was pulled into and mangled by the rollers on a machine. We showed that the manufacturer of the machine violated OSHA by designing a machine guard that did not effectively block his hand. The multi-million dollar result we obtained for our client and his family obviously creates a greater deterrence than penalties available to OSHA.
WILL WORKPLACE SAFETY CONDITIONS IMPROVE?
Many employers are not subject to civil litigation for on-the-job injuries because of California’s workers compensation system and therefore OSHA penalties may be the only deterrence. On this Workers’ Memorial Day, we encourage you to ask your Congressional representatives to ensure that OSHA can fulfill its duty to protect workers by providing an increased budget and providing better employer incentives to comply with safety regulations.
Jeremy Cloyd is a partner at Altair Law, located in San Francisco, California. Jeremy represents victims of construction site negligence, medical malpractice, police misconduct, government claims, dangerous property, on-the-job injuries, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, gas explosions, auto accidents including Polaris RZR product defect injury cases, dog bites, dangerous property, wrongful death, and amputations.
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