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Critical Workplace Safety Legislation Advances in Oregon Legislature

SALEM - Today, members of the Oregon State House Committee on Business and Labor voted to advance Senate Bill 592, a critical workplace safety bill that will make work safer for Oregonians. Senate Bill 592 is being considered by the House just days after Workers Memorial Day, where unions and workplace safety advocates honored the 47 Oregonians who died as a result of workplace injuries in 2022. On April 28th, Oregon’s unions held ceremonies in Portland and in Salem to raise attention to workplace fatalities, and to call on lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 592.

Senate Bill 592 addresses Oregon OSHA’s low penalties for workplace fatalities and serious workplace injuries and safety infractions, and more. It aligns Oregon OSHA penalties to Federal OSHA penalties and adjusts to inflation yearly. It triggers a comprehensive worksite investigation within a year of a workplace death in connection to a violation, or in the event of three or more willful violations within a year. It requires at least annual reporting to the legislature on the number of inspections, penalties, and appeals.

“Senate Bill 592 is a much-needed step toward safer working conditions for every worker in Oregon,” said Graham Trainor, Oregon AFL-CIO President. “We need to hold bad acting and negligent employers accountable through serious penalties that are in-line with Federal OSHA, we need more comprehensive investigations following the death of a worker, and Oregon’s lawmakers must be informed of what workplace safety regulators are doing to better inform policy moving forward. Senate Bill 592 is a commonsense approach to increasing workplace safety and I hope to see it handily pass the House and head to Governor Kotek’s desk to be signed into law. It’s what Oregon workers deserve, because nobody should have to go to work with the fear of not returning home safely.”

Central to the need for Senate Bill 592 are the low penalties for workplace safety infractions in connection to a worker fatality. House Republicans signaled during the committee work session on Monday that they would file a Minority Report to remove these penalty increases from the bill. The following penalties were levied by OR OSHA for workplace fatalities in 2022:

  • No penalty yet issued for a wildland firefighter who was digging a hand line and was struck by a tree - source

  • $210 penalty for a safety committee violation in response to a security guard who was fatally shot on the job - source

  • $500 penalty for failure to report the fatality when a worker died in a cash crash - source

  • $3,900 penalty for a lack of a backup alarm on asphalt equipment that resulted in a worker being fatally struck - source

  • Four safety penalties ranging from $935 to $1,625 after a worker was found unconscious by his family after a power line struck him on the job site - source

  • Six penalties ranging from $750 to $27,000 – some of which were repeated violations – involving a worker who was crushed by a mechanized door at a lumber plant - source

Senate Bill 592 is scheduled to be on the House floor for a vote in the coming days.

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