Rep. Castor Statement on U.S. Dept. of Labor Finding Gopher Resource ‘Willfully Exposed Workers to Unsafe Environment’
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released citations against Gopher Resource LLC with a willful violation – the highest violation possible - for exposing workers to serious workplace hazards. OSHA has proposed $319K in penalties to address violations.
“Today’s damning OSHA report and penalties confirm that Gopher lead smelting plant sacrificed the health and lives of Tampa workers and their families for corporate profit. This is a failure on all levels – violations including toxin exposure above the permissible limit, broken respirators and damaged equipment should have been addressed immediately. Now, our neighbors will deal with the consequences of Gopher’s greed. These violations by Gopher make it clear that the health of our neighbors was jeopardized every day they came to work with damaged, lead-exposed equipment. No one should be forced to choose between a paycheck and a hazardous workplace. I will continue to work diligently in Congress and with local partners to help our neighbors who are suffering from Gopher’s failures.
“Today’s report is another urgent warning that we need to update the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. While the Tampa Bay Times' outstanding investigative journalism brought these working conditions to light, it should not take a newspaper expose for our workers to be safe on the job. A 50-year-old law cannot meaningfully oversee the 21st century workplace, and I’ll continue advocating to update the law, increase OSHA’s resources and increase allowable civil penalties. The civil fines and penalties allowed by OSHA are woefully inadequate and too many companies like Gopher can just chalk it up to the cost of doing business. That’s why I am proud that we have included a provision in the Build Back Better package to provide for a 10-fold increase in allowable OSHA civil penalties. No monetary penalties against the company will fully rectify the harm our neighbors have suffered, but today’s OSHA citation is an important step in holding Gopher responsible for their misdeeds.”
Following a Tampa Bay Times report on derelict conditions for workers at Gopher Resource, Rep. Castor has called for federal investigations into the facility and worked with local partners to ensure that Gopher employees have their voices heard and receive assistance.