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Can OSHA help stop Workplace Bullying?

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I had a chance to attend Susan Harthill’s presentation at the recent Int’l Conference on Workplace Bullying & Harassment held last month in Cardiff.  Her academic article (“The Need for a Revitalized Regulatory Scheme to Address Workplace Bullying in the United States: Harnessing the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act”) suggests that OSHA may be able to help victims/targets of Workplace Bullying: “OSHA’s existing regulatory scheme should incorporate workplace bullying because OSHA is a singularly appropriate vehicle for such efforts and because prevention of workplace bullying through an existing scheme complements efforts to enact new legislation specifically addressing the problem.” 

And, thankfully OSHA is getting some much needed help to become more effective in helping protect employees:

The American people would be shocked to know that 360,000 workers have died since 1970, when OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and MSHA (the Mine Safety and Health Administration) were put in place,” Roberts said. “Who knows how many more workers would have died had those organizations not been put in place?”

OSHA’s Michaels said his organization and his boss, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, are committed to making the workplace safer, but OSHA and MSHA don’t have the tools needed.

Michaels said OSHA’s enforcement penalties haven’t changed much in 40 years and aren’t sufficient to deter companies’ inaction in preventing workplace accidents…Michaels, Gerard and Roberts pointed to the Protecting America’s Workers Act, HR 2067, introduced in April and currently in committee, as giving more teeth to OSHA’s mandate to safeguard the nation’s workers. – Pittsburgh Tribune

Here’s what the US Dept of Labor’s OSHA announced last month:

Last year, OSHA assembled a work group to evaluate its penalty policies and found currently assessed penalties are too low to have an adequate deterrent effect. Based on the group’s findings and recommendations, several administrative changes to the penalty calculation system, outlined in the agency’s Field Operations Manual, are being made. These administrative enhancements will become effective in the next several months. The penalty changes will increase the overall dollar amount of all penalties while maintaining OSHA’s policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith.

The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is only $7,000 and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000. The average penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000 to an average $3,000 to $4,000. Monetary penalties for violations of the OSH Act have been increased only once in 40 years despite inflation. The Protecting America’s Workers Act would raise these penalties, for the first time since 1990, to $12,000 and $250,000, respectively. Future penalty increases would also be tied to inflation. In the meantime, OSHA will focus on outreach in preparation of implementing this new penalty policy.

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3 Comments

  1. [...] rest is here: Can OSHA help stop Workplace Bullying? « THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW Share and [...]

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  2. Concerned Supervisor says:

    I have been trying to deal with this issue of bullying in the workplace for a number of months now and it is getting to be too much. I have tried to utilize HR to gain help but because I’m in a government environment the HR director’s boss is also my boss so nothing gets done. I’m not sure if what I’m reading on this website is really recent information and what hope I could garnish for any future relief.

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    • I’m sorry you’re having such a trying experience but it really is best to seek personalized legal advice to understand what policies or regulations may be in place to help you in in your situation. A therapist may be able to help you find the best ways to cope with the impact of any stress you may be experiencing.

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