Another Worker Injury

I planned on writing something today about the problem of bullying in the workplace but after reading an email about Ithaca’s most recent worker injury, I changed my mind.

The tragic accident at the Cargill mine in Lansing and the grievous loss of  29 miners in West Virginia earlier this month are just two of the many job related accidents that occur every day. Today’s accident occurred at the  construction site of the new athletic complex at Ithaca College. The worker fell 30 feet from a construction crane and was air-lifted to an unnamed hospital.

We all know that dangerous jobs can result in accidents the same way driving a car or mountain climbing can. The horror of job related accidents is that there are 16 job-related deaths per day in the US and companies that willfully ignore dangers in their workplaces rarely are penalized for their negligence, even when they have received numerous warnings.

According, Under current Federal law, willfully contributing to the death of an employee is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum prison sentence of six months and a maximum fine of $70,000. Even with these weak penalties, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rarely refers such cases to the Department of Justice for prosecution, so those employers that knowingly allow their employees to work under dangerous conditions are rarely held accountable. In fact, current laws are so weak that millions of dollars of penalties to victim’s families have not been paid — in those rare cases when violators are penalized at all.

It’s time to change our tolerance for work-related death and injury. Stay tuned for some information on the effort to expand safety regulations for workers. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would:

Expand workplace protections to state, county, municipal, and federal employees who are not currently covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act

  • Increase financial penalties for those who kill or endanger workers
  • Strengthen criminal penalties to make felony charges available for willful negligence causing death or serious injury
  • Expand OSHA coverage to millions of employees who fall through the cracks (like airline and railroad workers)
  • Provide protection for whistleblowers
  • Give employees the right to refuse hazardous work that may kill them
  • Improve the rights of workers and families, requiring OSHA to investigate all cases of death
  • Prohibit employers from discouraging reporting of injury or illness

We wish the best for the injured IC worker and his family and friends.