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DIGGING DEEPER: Holcomb signs act prompted by ‘Dying on the Job’ series

INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA21) – Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed into law a measure that will increase the maximum penalties on businesses whose disregard of safety precautions results in the death of a worker.

HB 1341 (now House Enrolled Act 1341) was introduced in response to a series of ABC21 Digging Deeper reports prompted by an incident at Fort Wayne Plastics in January 2018.

“They’re not tears of sorrow,” an emotional Samantha Hogue-Figgs said Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Holcomb signed the bill into law. “I am just overjoyed! I feel like I could just jump and reach the sky! It is awesome, because my baby, she still shines like always.”

Hogue-Figgs’ daughter, Shacarra Hogue, 23, died when she was crushed inside a molding machine that had been altered by the company. Key safety figures had been removed from the device.

ABC21 reported that Fort Wayne Plastics was fined less than $7,000 following an Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation.

Within weeks of the first report, Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne) drafted legislation that substanially increases the top-level penalties that would be applied in such cases.

In the 2019 legislative session, an amended version of that bill passed both houses unanimously, sending it to the governor.

Holcomb’s signature Wednesday afternoon was the final step in the process.

Among the changes implemented by the legislation:

  • An employer who knowingly violates any standard, rule or order or this chapter, where any such violation can reasonably be determined to have contributed to an employee fatality, shall be assessed a civil penalty of not less than nine thousand four hundred seventy-two dollars ($9,472) for each violation and may be assessed a civil penalty of up to one hundred thirty-two thousand five hundred ninety-eight dollars ($132,598) for each violation.

The provision nearly doubles the longstanding maximum fine for such an offense.

The new penalty structure will take effect July 1.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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