“Hundreds of thousands of worker’s lives have been saved because of [OSHA],” said Smith. “[However] many more lives, thousands of lives, could have been saved had some regulations been stronger, had employers take the initiative and if the agency had more resources to do more inspections.”
Under current worker safety laws, civil penalties are weak and rarely lead to criminal prosecutions. “It is only a 6-month misdemeanor if [an employer] willfully commits a violation of worker safety laws. It is only considered a misdemeanor if a worker dies,” said David Uhlmann, professor and director of Environmental Law and Policy Programs at Michigan University.
“[The companies] consider OSHA a mosquito. They’d rather pay the fines than bring the plants into compliance [with the laws]. They think the law is so ineffective that it’s more profitable for them to take the risk by not having safety programs in place than to comply with the law,” said Charles Jeffress, former assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA.
The goal of the 16 Deaths Per Day campaign is to strengthen support for the Protecting America’s Workers Act (H.R. 2067), which aims at toughening both enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and penalties for violating the law. If H.R. 2067 passes, it will be the first time work and safety laws are strengthened in 20 years.