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New Administration Could Change Workplace Safety Penalties Pertaining to Environmental Issues

There has always been a strong emphasis placed on workplace safety in the U.S., but the changing administration might ease up on certain aspects of job safety, especially in relation to the environment. In 2012, the leading cause of workplace fatalities — 42% — was issues with transportation, followed by homicides and suicides at 16%, […]

New Administration Could Change Workplace Safety Penalties Pertaining to Environmental Issues

There has always been a strong emphasis placed on workplace safety in the U.S., but the changing administration might ease up on certain aspects of job safety, especially in relation to the environment.

In 2012, the leading cause of workplace fatalities — 42% — was issues with transportation, followed by homicides and suicides at 16%, equipment failure at 16%, and slips, trips, and falls at 15%. Over the last few years, the Obama administration has combated many of these workplace safety violations with legislation designed to protect the environment.

Financial Times reports that under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workplace accidents that result in fatalities are only labeled as misdemeanors, punishable by a maximum amount of only six months in jail and a $10,000 fine. Environmental crimes, however, result in greater punishments. During Obama’s administration, felonies for mishandling hazardous waste and knowingly endangered human lives are punishable by up to 15 years in prison, with or without a fatality.

President-elect Donald Trump has openly criticized environmental regulations because of the restrictions they place on businesses.

“Enforcement priorities change,” said Barak Cohen, a former U.S. prosecutor representing Perkins Coie. “In the Trump administration, environmental criminal enforcement may not be as important as other areas.”

Despite the uncertainty regarding environmentally based workplace safety penalties on a federal level, Supply House Times reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will now begin enforcing its electronic reporting policy.

Employers will be required to electronically submit any workplace illness or injury data that they are currently recording on their onsite OSHA injury and illness form.

“Our new rule will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent work injuries to show investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor. “Access to injury data also will help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

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