Measure Seeks Relaxed Business Violation Fines

BERLIN — With an eye on improving Maryland’s often disparaged business climate, Delegate Mike McDermott has introduced legislation in the General Assembly that would relax the penalties for health and safety violations.

McDermott sponsored the legislation, along with around 30 co-sponsors, which would, among other things, reduce hefty fines handed out by the state for first-time health and safety offenses at job sites and businesses if the offenders made a good faith effort to correct the problems.

“I’ve been getting a lot of complaints from business owners about safety inspectors coming on to job sites,” McDermott said. “They’re getting cited for small safety violations and first-time offenses, but they’re getting charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.”

House Bill 104 would allow for a grace period for business owners to correct minor infractions before the heavy hammer of huge fines is dropped on them. McDermott said Maryland’s tax structure, along with the often onerous fines for health and safety infractions, is driving business out of the state.

“We’re trying to create a more business-friendly climate in Maryland,” he said. “I know first-hand a lot of companies have moved out of Maryland because of restrictions and heavy taxes. This is a pro-business bill because if we continue to do the things we’ve been doing, we’re going to drive business away from Maryland.”

McDermott said the bill is an attempt to instill a more common sense approach for state inspectors.

“I’m all for health inspections and safety inspections on job sites, but some of these cases really raise eyebrows,” he said. “We’ve seen cases where a railing is too low by an inch, or a barber shop with hair on the floor. There should be a grace period for a first offense to allow the business to correct the problem and there should be no major fines for a first offense.”

House Bill 104, if approved, would alter the penalty system if a violation is not a serious one and if the business owner or employer corrects the violation within a reasonable amount of time under the direction of the state’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry.

“Give them time to make the appropriate corrections before dropping the bomb on them,” he said. “If the inspectors come back and they’re still doing the same dumb things, then they can be fined.”