In the state of Wyoming, one that sees a higher number of workplace fatalities than many others, legislators are trying to increase penalties inflicted upon companies after an employee dies. After passing in the Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee it will go onto the state legislature next year.
Representative Mary Throne of Cheyenne says she hopes this will pass and will send a message to organizations that operate under unsafe conditions. She said current penalties are too low.
In 2012 the AFL-CIO said that Wyoming ranked second in the country for workplace fatalities- at 12.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers which was up from 11.6 workers in 2011. The state with the highest rate of workplace fatalities, North Dakota, had 17.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. In 2013 there were 26 total fatalities in Wyoming.
Current penalties for a fatality are listed as “serious” violations- the state does not have a penalty for a fatal workplace accident. Serious violations are $7,000 and the new bill would ask for $12,000 for serious violations, and create a new penalty for a violation that results in a fatality. That would run a company $50,000 for a small company but up to $250,000 for a larger company that employs more than 250 workers.
Some say that the increased fines might not go very far in reducing workplace fatalities- as the industries in Wyoming (think agriculture, energy) are inherently dangerous anyway. Rather, they say that higher fines might scare off employers from hiring young or inexperienced workers or even drive some companies to go out of business. Wyoming doesn’t have a very large population to begin with, and Senator Ray Peterson from Cowley says that’s why the fatality rates put them in the top of the list. He says the combination of a low population and the types of jobs people work in the state result in a high fatality rate.
Representative Elaine Harvey, who is a co-chair of the Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee, says she does want to raise the fine for violations in general but disagrees with the extra penalties on violations that result in fatalities. She says that she doesn’t think any monetary penalty can really satisfy a life and higher penalties will not stop fatalities.
From the Insurance Journal