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Oregon bill calls for stiffer penalties for safety scofflaws


Photo: powerofforever/iStockphoto

Salem, OR — Legislation recently introduced in Oregon would significantly increase civil penalties for safety violations that contribute to worker injuries and deaths.

Sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland), S.B. 592 calls for fines of $50,000 to $250,000 if a willful or repeated violation caused or contributed to a worker death. For a serious violation involving a death, penalties would range from $20,000 to $50,000.

The penalty for other-than-serious violations would increase to $13,653, regardless of whether a death occurred. For willful or repeat violations not involving a death, Oregon OSHA could impose fines from $9,753 to $136,532.

Current Oregon OSHA penalties range from no specified fine for other-than-serious violations to less than $50 for serious violations, and a $100 daily minimum fine for willful or repeat other-than-serious violations, with no specific increase required in cases involving a death.

According to a report by OregonLive.com, Oregon OSHA issued an average penalty of $620 for serious violations in fiscal year 2021. That’s more than 70% lower than the federal range of $2,325 and $3,875.

In addition, the legislation calls on Oregon OSHA, which operates as a State Plan, to inspect workplaces within a year after a death occurs. Inspections also would be required if an employer is cited for three or more willful or repeated violations within a 12-month period.

If the bill is passed and signed into law by Gov. Tina Kotek (D), the new penalties and rules will take effect immediately. At press time, two public hearings on the bill have been conducted. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Labor and Business Committee.

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