INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA21) – By a vote of 8-2, a bill that would update state law regarding certain workplace deaths passed out of a State Senate committee on Wednesday.
HB 1341, drafted by Rep. Martin Carbaugh, would increase penalties on companies that are found to have acted with extreme disregard for worker safety, with a knowing violation of standards leading to the death of an employee.
The bill was drafted following an ABC21 Digging Deeper investigation into the death of Shacarra Hogue at Fort Wayne Plastics in January 2018. Hogue had been using a press that had been altered in a manner that made it dangerous to workers.
The company, which is no longer in business, was ultimately fined only $6,300.
HB 1341 could increase penalties to as much as $100,000 in such cases.
The case involving the death of Hogue, who was 23 years old, was discussed as part of the committee hearing.
HB 1341 has already passed the State Assembly (by a vote of 96-0) and Wednesday’s vote in the Pensions and Labor Committee was the first action taken in the Senate, where it will now advance to a full vote.
Amendments have been made along the way, meaning a reconciliation would need to happen before the bill reaches Gov. Eric Holcomb.
In the Senate, Sen. Liz Brown and Sen. Justin Busch have signed on as sponsors.
“If you can prove that they knowingly violated the standard of care, if you lower the safety standards and it had a direct causation to the person’s death, then I think that we’ve increased the penalties that haven’t been increased in years, and that’s certainly appropriate,” Brown told ABC21 following the vote.
Carbaugh, the bill’s author, attended the hearing and assuaged some concerns when he noted the steps taken to fine-tune the bill.
“It is an enforceable statute tailored to the worst possible actors,” he said. “(Those companies) should face the maximum penalties that can be put into law.”
Also addressing the committee: Mike Ripley, speaking on behalf of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which has been supportive of the bill after working with Carbaugh on its language.
“This would be through an investigation process,” he said of its application in the business world. “We think it’s been fine-tuned enough that we’re supportive of the bill.
“This is an issue that never should have happened. It’s indefensible. There’s no reason for us to defend what transpired, and I think that it’s clear that, in the case that took place in Fort Wayne, this language would get to what happened there.”