Friday, December 18, 2015

Feds pledge stronger enforcement of worker-safety and environmental laws for agriculture and mining

The Department of Justice and the Department of Labor say they will more vigorously enforce environmental and worker safety laws next year, Stephen Davies reports for Agri-Pulse.

On an average day in the U.S., 13 workers die on the job, thousands are injured and 150 contract diseases from exposure to carcinogens and other toxic and hazardous substances, according to a statement from the Justice Department. "Under the new plan, the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. attorneys’ offices will work with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration , Mine Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations."

In a memo sent to all 93 U.S. attorneys, "Deputy Attorney General Yates urged federal prosecutors to work with the Environmental Crimes Section in pursuing worker-endangerment violations," the statement says. "The worker safety statutes generally provide for only misdemeanor penalties. However, prosecutors have now been encouraged to consider utilizing Title 18 and environmental offenses, which often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, to enhance penalties and increase deterrence."

"In addition to prosecuting environmental crimes, the Environment and Natural Resources Division has also been strengthening its efforts to pursue civil cases that involve worker safety violations under statutes such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act," the statement says. "Violations of a number of provisions under these statutes can have a direct impact on workers tasked with handling dangerous chemicals and other materials, cleaning up spills and responding to hazardous releases."

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