DIGGING DEEPER: Workplace safety bill cruises through full Indiana House

INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA21) – By a unanimous vote of 96-0, HB 1341, the bill to overhaul penalties related to workplace deaths in Indiana, passed through the General Assembly and advanced to the state Senate.

The bill would reform how Indiana addresses instances in which negligence on the part of an employer contributes to an on-the-job fatality.

That was the case in January 2018, when 23-year-old Shacarra Hogue was killed in a press that had been altered by Fort Wayne Plastics, the company she had joined just days prior.

An ABC21 Digging Deeper investigation, “Dying on the Job,” examined the state’s probe that followed, leading to a fine of just $6,300 against the company.

Unrelated to the fine, Fort Wayne Plastics later went out of business, and Hogue’s parents have described the entire process as infuriating.

In December, State Rep. Martin Carbaugh, a Fort Wayne Republican, filed HB 1341 in hopes of increasing penalties that could be levied against businesses in similar situations.

It was amended in the House Labor Committee last week, then passed on a vote of 13-0. Hogue’s parents testified at that session.

On Tuesday, the bipartisan support carried over to the full General Assembly vote, with the only concerns raised coming from lawmakers who wanted the bill to take even additional steps to protect workers.

In the Senate, HB 1341 will be backed by two Allen County Republicans — Sen. Liz Brown and Sen. Justin Busch — who have signed on as sponsors.

Two other local lawmakers, Republican Rep. Robert Morris and Democratic Rep. Lisa Beck, were added as co-authors.

In its current form, HB 1341 would penalize companies more than $100,000 for “knowingly” violating safety laws, resulting in death.

A separate bill — HB1182 — includes a provision that would increase compensation for burial expenses incurred by families of a person killed in a workplace accident. That measure also passed the House and was referred last week to the Senate.

In 2018, two Indiana workers died under such conditions, according to the State. One worker died in 2017.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley

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