Commentary: Fines for worker safety are a necessary tool

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

It's progress, of a sort, that the N.C. Labor Department has proposed fining one of the state's largest poultry companies almost $180,000 for a variety of workplace safety violations.

The Observer has been reporting for months on how the House of Raeford Farms has failed to report on-the-job injuries, fired workers who filed for worker's compensation and hired underage workers. Taken together, those problems hint at a company culture that disregards worker safety rules.

So the proposed fines may be an indicator the state is, at last, cracking down. If so, that would be a welcome development.

But fines proposed are not the same as fines paid. Workplace safety regulators in both North and South Carolina, time and again propose fining companies for breaking laws but later slash the fines. Consider: Since 2001 the N.C. Occupational Safety and Health division has cited House of Raeford for more than 60 other serious workplace violations and proposed fines totaling $117,000. After negotiating with the company, it reduced the total to $26,500.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.