Recently our own Tom Domer was quoted in the Oshkosh Northwestern in an article entitled “Special Report: Wisconsin Companies Insulated From Stiff Penalties In Worker Deaths.” The article, based on a review by the paper of 240 workplace fatalities in Wisconsin over an 11-year period, exposed that the fines imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on companies have been small and are often negotiated down from an already low starting point. Of the 240 workplace fatalities, fines were assessed in just 184 cases, and the median fine was a mere $4,200.
While workplace deaths have dropped dramatically since OSHA implementation in the 1970s, tragedies still occur. OSHA’s limited penalty mechanisms in these cases “cheapens” the value of life. Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation system also protects employer’s against bad behavior. A death benefit in Wisconsin is equal to four times the deceased’s annual wages, but the deceased’s family members cannot bring a personal injury claim agains the employer (meaning no recovery for pain and suffering or loss of consortium). Under the worker’s compensation law, the only “fine” against the employer is a potential safety violation (with a minimal $15,000 cap). In Tom’s words “No matter how evil, nefarious or even negligent an employer is, there is no lawsuit potential.” Tom further remarked that “The law unfortunately protects employers even against their own negligence.”
We recommend that you read the article in its entirety by clicking here.