A 23-year-old was killed in an industrial accident. Her employer had intentionally disabled safety features on the press she operated, and was fined just $6,300. WPTA’s investigation revealed that the fines for death on the job in Indiana were so low, “it doesn’t cost that much to kill someone.”
An investigative series into workplace safety by WPTA, Quincy Media’s ABC-NBC affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind., is prompting action by the governor, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and state senators and representatives to introduce legislation that will address some of the workplace issues raised in the station’s Dying the Job series.
The series focused on the death of 23-year-old Shacarra Hogue in January. Hogue died when her employer stripped away safety features from an industrial press.
WPTA began investigating what happened to Hogue, and to the company, and it led to a months-long team effort examining workplace safety rules that some say are in serious need of reform.
Tonight at 6p: Alexis Shear continues her Digging Deeper investigation into just how little companies pay for a death on the job. Don't miss this special report tonight at 6p only on ABC21. Catch up on our previous reports at https://on.wpta21.com/2Qw8Qsi
Posted by ABC21 WPTA on Thursday, December 13, 2018
In 2016, the last year for which figures are available, 137 Indiana workers died on the job. Many, likely most, of those incidents received little or no media coverage, and the fines leveled against companies for serious safety issues have received even less.
The Dying on the Job investigative team reviewed every safety order issued by the state in the past six months detailing how little Fort Wayne and other companies have paid for serious and repeated code violations.
But that would change if Indiana State Rep. Martin Carbaugh can shepherd through reforms in the upcoming legislative session.
“Your story was very moving to me,” said Carbaugh. “I had no idea what you found out about the safety removal of the floor of the machine. So that really hit me, hit me in the heart, and also made me pretty frustrated.”
Indiana State Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) says she will support changes to the state’s worker’s comp statute, giving the proposal a foothold in the upper chamber, as well.
“Quite frankly,” says Brown, “if you hadn’t brought it to our attention, we might not be aware that we haven’t made changes in some time.”
“I had this assumption, like many people, that IOSHA (Indiana’s workplace safety division) would prioritize this, get the news out, that we would know about every single death and that the penalties would be a lot greater than they actually are,” said Alexis Shear, WPTA’s investigative reporter.
“Honestly, it wasn’t until we got 9-1-1 audio from the city sometime this summer that we went back and checked those IOSHA documents and realized how low it was.”
NOTE: Alexis Shear is just four years out of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and her series on workplace safety just might make the workplace safer for millions of Indiana residents.
As the man said in the promo, the fines for death on the job in Indiana are so low, “it doesn’t cost that much to kill someone.”
Well done, WPTA.