Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, one of my (s)heroes, is getting serious about enforcing workplace safety laws. Back in August, she toured a West Virginia coal mine, tweeting her experience. Now she is coming out swinging against the oil industry, as OSHA issued a record $87.4 million fine against BP for safety violations last week.
This record fine stems from an explosion incident in 2005 where 15 people were killed and 170 injured at a BP refinery in Texas. OSHA had been investigating to determine whether BP was complying with an agreement it signed with the agency after the explosion to reduce workplace hazards. And Secretary Solis felt that the company was out of compliance.
Secretary Solis said, “When BP signed the OSHA settlement from the March 2005 explosion, it agreed to take comprehensive action to protect employees. Instead of living up to that commitment, BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated.”
Finally, BP is fighting back with a challenge to the fine stating that it has pursued action plans outlined in the agreement, but there have been three other fatalities at this plant since the 2005 explosion. It will be interesting to see how the Department of Labor and Secretary Solis proceed with workplace violations like this one.