OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
December 8, 1995
The Honorable Rick Santorum
United States Senate
527 Linden Street
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503
Dear Senator Santorum:
This is in reply to your June 22, 1995, inquiry concerning your constituent, Mr. Michael J. Polyak, of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. His employer, Ametek-West Chester Plastics Division, was initially fined $23,425 last year for a number of serious workplace violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) regulations. The company negotiated with our Wilkes-Barre Area Office over the cited conditions and the size of the fine. Ametek-West Chester Plastics agreed to correct all of the violations and to pay a reduced penalty of $11,712. Please accept my apology for the delay in responding to your inquiry.
Mr. Polyak is President of the Local Union at the plant and has presented, on behalf of his local, an interesting proposal, and one which has been made before by others. He suggested that instead of OSHA collecting penalty money from a company for workplace infractions of the OSHA law, the money be used by the company to buy safety equipment and provide safety training to the workers.
Mr. Polyak's proposal may appear practical, provided an employer is inspected and cited by OSHA. But such an approach would foster very little, if any, voluntary compliance on the part of some companies who would have no reason to protect their employees from workplace hazards until the OSHA inspector arrived at the workplace. The civil penalty is intended to act as an inducement to compliance for all employers. Without the assurance of monetary penalties for lack of compliance, there would be little incentive for companies to buy safety equipment or provide training to their workers.
The OSH Act of 1970 stipulated that civil penalties shall be assessed to employers who violate the requirements of the Act, and that such penalties shall be paid to the Secretary of Labor for deposit into the Treasury of the United States. OSHA, therefore, would not be able to approve Mr. Polyak's proposal.
Thank you for referring Mr. Polyak's letter and for the opportunity to comment on his concerns. We hope this information will assist you in responding to your constituent.
Joseph A. Dear
May 17, 1995
Andrew J. Hedesh
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health
Dear Mr. Hedesh:
Our Local Union is writing your office with a proposal concerning penalties issued 6/8/94 and a settlement agreed upon 2/23/95 in the matter of Ametek-West Chester Plastics Division under OSHA number J9435-244-17618729.
The Local feels money levied from fines for these violations would better benefit Ametek employees if used in the plant to acquire safety equipment and to further safety training. After all, it is the employees here who were at risk as a result of these violations. Ametek has, and is continuing to correct these problems. This capital would be a great aid to providing my union members with the best safety equipment and training, not just the standard required by your office.
This is just a Union proposal right now, but I will forward a copy of this letter to company officials who I am confident will support this effort. I am trying to get an idea how your office would consider such a proposal as this.
I will also be enlisting the help of our state and federal legislators in this matter. I would appreciate any type of reply you could give concerning this matter; my address and phone number are listed below. Thank you for your time.
May 17, 1995
Honorable Rick Santorum
United States Senator
120 Russell Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
I would appreciate any help you could give concerning the enclosed letter I wrote to OSHA. It only stands to benefit the safety and health of my union members and Ametek employees as opposed to the practice of just fining companies for lack of compliance to OSHA standards.
If there is any assistance you can offer, please let me know. Ametek is located in Nesquehoning, PA.
Michael J. Polyak
President, Local 1808
409 Railroad Street
Tamaqua, PA 18252