The safety of working Oregonians just got a major boost, thanks to the passage and implementation of Senate Bill 592 which was a major legislative priority for the Oregon AFL-CIO and unions across the state. Prior to SB 592 becoming law, Oregon ranked dead last in terms of penalties for workplace safety violations, with a measly $50 minimum for serious violations leading to injuries or worse.
SB 592 is a serious upgrade to the penalties employers face for health and safety violations. The minimum penalty is now a much heftier $1,116, and it's set to keep up with inflation every year. No more being at the bottom of the list – Oregon is stepping up to show that worker safety is a top priority.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) is now armed with more power to crack down on violations that put workers at risk. Whether it's a lack of training, faulty equipment, exposure to harmful substances, or missing safety gear, employers are on notice that serious violations should come with serious penalties. And it's not just about punishing after the fact – these changes are aimed at preventing accidents in the first place. With unions pushing for better laws, we're seeing a shift towards safer workplaces and a stronger emphasis on holding employers accountable.
Let's not forget the numbers: around 125,000 workers are hurt or disabled every year due to workplace hazards across the country. But here's the good news – researchers say that a 10% bump in penalties and inspection frequency can cut worker injuries by about 1% each. That might sound small, but it adds up when it's you or someone you know – in 2020 we estimate that those increases would have prevented over 400 safety and health incidents in Oregon.