Are OSHA’s pitiful fines undermining worker safety?

It’s a meme among the right that the there are too many regulations on the free market and that businesses are being smothered by the overbearing hand of the government.

But sometimes, the opposite is true.

Take this case of a worker death during the construction of the new Mississippi River bridge in north St. Louis. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) did an investigation of the working conditions at the site where the worker died. After finding four possible safety violations, OSHA is reccomending that the three companies involved –  Massman Construction, Traylor Bros., and Alberici — be fined a paltry $15,300.

With such a low fine attached to safety violations, it’s no wonder that businesses often routinely ignore the law when it comes to the well-being of their workers. This case is a stark reminder that under-regulation can be just as destructive as the “over-regulation” the right complains about.