Senate Bill Would Increase Maximum Fines for Hazmat Violations. As a result of the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Congress is considering increases to the maximum civil penalties for violations of the Hazardous Materials Regulations. This would affect all modes of transportation, including trucks.
576, the Railway Safety Act of 2023, has been introduced in the Senate. The bill has a number of rail safety provisions, but it would also increase the maximum civil fine for HMR violations from the current $96,624 to the greater of $750,000 or 0.5% of the company’s annual income or annual operating income. If the HMR violation results in death, serious illness, or severe injury to any person or substantial destruction of property, the bill would increase the maximum civil fine from the current $225,455 to the greater of $1.75 million or 1% of the company’s annual income or annual operating income.
If enacted, these increased fines would give the U.S. Department of Transportation stronger measures to respond to catastrophic incidents such as the East Palestine derailment.
OSHA Hosting Public Meeting on Whistleblower Outreach and Training. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hosting a public meeting on May 10, 2023, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., ET via Zoom. The meeting is to solicit comments and suggestions from stakeholders on the agency’s outreach and training efforts in support of the whistleblower laws it enforces.
There are over 20 whistleblower statutes that protect employees from retaliation from reporting violations of workplace safety and health standards in a variety of industries, including commercial motor carriers. OSHA has developed a website that describes the employee protections afforded by the statutes and advises how to file a whistleblower complaint.
OSHA is seeking suggestions on how it can improve its outreach and training efforts in the Whistleblower Protection program. In particular, the agency invites input on the following:
- What can the agency do to improve the Whistleblower Protection Program’s website, www.whistleblowers.gov?
- What additional materials would be beneficial for the agency to make publicly available on its website?
- What types of whistleblower training videos or presentations would be useful for the public to better understand the whistleblower laws enforced by OSHA?
- How can OSHA better engage with complainants and respondents?