Photo by Earl Dotter

Could Alex Acosta be ushering in a new era at OSHA (or maybe re-ushering in an old era)?

Yesterday OSHA issued a press release announcing $569,463 in proposed penalties against Antoneum North America after a machine amputated a 46-year-old worker’s right hand, wrist and part of his forearm.  OSHA issued three willful and two repeated violations of machine safety procedures.

Press release quotations seem to have reverted to the rather stilted and understated style of the Bush administration with a little Trump-style propaganda sprinkled in. But we should be thankful for small favors:

“This incident illustrates why companies must evaluate machine safety procedures to ensure they are adequate and effective in protecting workers from injuries on the job,” said Dorothy Dougherty, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “In addition to being the law and the right thing to do, safe workplaces are an important component in supporting and sustaining job growth in America.”

As we have discussed before, press releases are important tools to remind the employers and workers of America that OSHA is on the job.

Does this mark a new trend for OSHA? Will we be seeing a lot more enforcement press releases as we have with every other administration in OSHA history? Is there a new threshold for press releases — any penalties over $500,000, or anytime a worker loses major body parts?

Or is this a recognition from Acosta, who has an enforcement background, that there are actually unscrupulous employers out there and that  press releases actually have a deterrent value?

Time will tell.

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