Friday, October 30, 2009

Making up for lost time?

No. However, it is nice to see OSHA trying to look scary. The explosion at Imperial Sugar in Georgia has the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board report released earlier this week. The 3rd paragraph of the story in the NYTimes has a link to the document. Lots of pretty good photographs, with diagrams, etc. I haven't read one of their reports before. 89 pages of reading for a chilly Autumn evening. The Times article reports the proposed $8.7 million fines. This popped up on my radar right after the news today brought up the fines announced against BP following their explosion in Texas a few years ago. In both cases, I'm far more curious about how much these companies will actually pay. We all know that "proposed fines" bears no semblance to "actual fines". The Times article about BP included: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has repeatedly said that “there’s a new sheriff in town,” signaling that she would take a more aggressive approach in enforcing wage and labor laws, after what she said was lax enforcement under President George W. Bush. This might be more plausible, if OSHA hadn't been so lax for the past 39 years. How often do they prosecute anyone for anything? BP is cited for 439 willful and egregious violations. This is finally the trigger to request the Attorney General to prosecute criminal charges. Are they going to? If 15 deaths & 439 willful violations don't do it .... what will? The Strib also reported (the only point in their article which wasn't in the Times): Since the 2005 accident, four additional people have died at the Texas refinery, including one employee and three contractors. BP was fined $50m by the Department of Justice in 2007 to settle criminal charges stemming from the Texas explosion. Reports the BBC News. This subtly gets to the point most in the US miss. These criminal charges are from failure to comply with the Clean Air Act. In other words, the EPA had them prosecuted. These people likely won't be criminally prosecuted from OSHA. Like everything else with the gov't: wait and see ... wait and see ...

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