Sohn Manufacturing, Inc. v. Labor and Industry Review Commission, No. 2012AP2566 (Wis. Ct. App. 08/07/13).
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that a manufacturer was liable for a penalty payment for violating a safety regulation.
What it means: In Wisconsin, when an employer fails to comply with a safety statute and a worker is injured as a result, the worker is entitled to a penalty payment.
A worker for a manufacturer was cleaning a machine when her hand was pulled into the machine, causing severe injuries. The manufacturer's practice was to have workers clean the machines while they were running. An investigation revealed that the manufacturer had not complied with an Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard related to safe shutdown procedures when servicing machines. State law provides an extra 15 percent award when a worker's injury was caused by their employer's safety violation. The manufacturer asserted that it was not liable for a penalty payment. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagreed with the manufacturer.
The manufacturer asserted that the Occupational Safety and Health Act preempted states' attempts to regulate private employers, unless the state was authorized to regulate by the federal government. The manufacturer argued that the state law allowing the penalty was an attempt to regulate an area that the state was not authorized to regulate. The court explained that the state law was not an enforcement statute but a workers' compensation law. The manufacturer did not overcome the presumption that the OSH Act allows states to increase workers' compensation awards due to workplace safety violations.
The court explained that the manufacturer failed to comply with the "safe place" statute. The Labor and Industry Review Commission did not rely on the manufacturer's violation of the OSHA standard to establish that it failed to comply with a statute or rule. The violation of the OSHA standard was evidence that the manufacturer violated the state law.
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October 28, 2013
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