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Are OSHA penalties effective?

If you work in a meat processing plant in Alabama, you may be aware of some of the regulations and safety measures that your employer is required to follow. According to NPR, the potentially hazardous equipment that is often used in slaughterhouses includes sharp instruments such as knives, saws and hooks, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides oversight for these facilities.

A representative from OSHA pointed out that even if you suffer an injury accident on the job, it may not necessarily result in a financial penalty for your employer. Instead, fines are levied when inspectors identify violations of the federal safety regulations. Since OSHA may only raise the rates of fines when Congress approves them, the amounts are typically much less than those imposed when companies commit infractions monitored by other government agencies.

Unfortunately, data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that many accidents go unreported, and because of inadequate resources, your workplace may not be the subject of an examination by OSHA inspectors. So, although equipment such as non-slip mats, smocks and guardrails may be required in order for you to safely perform your job, your employer may not have the incentive necessary to provide these.

To create greater incentive for meatpacking companies to conform to federal law, OSHA has a program that publicizes violators’ seeming disregard for safety. If your employer were placed on this list, OSHA would conduct investigations more frequently to ensure that occupational hazards are addressed. This information about federal safety regulations and oversight is for educational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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