Up until now, when companies in Washington violated safety rules and put their workers at risk, companies were allowed to let those hazards stand while they appealed their fines and citations. As a result, workers were continually put at risk and, often, hurt by the hazards their companies were slow in fixing. Now, thanks to a bill just signed in the Washington Senate, companies must fix hazards even if they are appealing the citation.
From the WISHA press release:
“This change to our state worker safety laws offers significant improvement for worker safety,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director, L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This allows us to ensure that hazards are corrected even as we continue discussions with employers who may disagree with our citations.”
Under existing rules, if a business appeals an L&I citation involving a serious workplace safety violation, there is no obligation to correct the hazard for which they were cited until the appeal is resolved. This can take months or even years and expose some workers to uncorrected hazards.
For example, one company was cited in 2006 for several serious violations after a worker suffered lead poisoning. The company appealed and did not correct the hazards during the appeal process. The citation was upheld. However, before the company corrected the hazards, a second worker also suffered lead poisoning.
Nationally, a recent analysis by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that in the decade between 1999 and 2009, there were at least 30 appealed cases where a fatality occurred at the same site before the appeal was resolved.
Submitted by Andrew Fatato