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June 10, 2013

Top Nine OSHA Fines in May Total $1.8 Million

OSHA issued nine 6-figure fines in May, with a total proposed value of nearly $1.8 million. Fall hazards and fall protection were common citations, as were willful and repeat violations. Here are some details of the cases, which are still pending final decisions:

1.  $290,700 for Willful & Repeat Fall Hazards at a Construction Site:
Fall Protection Safety Sign
  • Three willful violations due to workers exposed to falls ranging from 9 to 30 feet with missing or inadequate fall protection safeguards. Additional fall hazards stemmed from ladder misuse and personal fall arrest systems that could allow workers to fall more than 6 feet and strike lower levels.
  • Four repeat citations repeat violations including: lack of fall protection training, no eye protection for workers using pneumatic nail guns, ungrounded electrical cords and missing handrails. Three serious citations for wood and metal trusses inadequately braced during installation, missing fire extinguishers and no protection from falling objects.
2.  $261,152.69 for Whistleblower Violation:
  • The company wrongfully terminated a senior engineer for raising safety concerns during construction projects at a nuclear power generating project. The company was ordered to reinstate the employee to his former position with all pay, benefits and rights and pay back wages of $206,360 plus interest, compensatory damages of $50,650 and reasonable attorney fees.
3.  $233,870 for Combustible Dust, Confined Space, Chemical, Mechanical and Electrical Hazards:

Confined Space Safety Sign

  • OSHA inspectors found hazardous accumulations of explosive, combustible wood dust on structural supports, pipes, fixtures, ductwork, equipment and floors. Furthermore, workers were allowed to smoke in areas where excessive wood dust and wood shavings were present and the plant's dust collection system was inadequate. Accumulations of wood shavings, as deep as 1 foot in some locations, also posed a fall and slipping hazard.
  • The plant did not develop and implement a confined space entry program or provide training, on confined spaces, hearing conservation, hazardous chemicals. Powered industrial trucks were not inspected and/or were operated by untrained operators; and required guarding and fire watches were not used and maintained when welding near flammable wood shavings. Additional hazards include unguarded moving machine parts, exposed live electrical parts, ungrounded equipment and improperly stored oxygen cylinders.
4.  $221,100 for Willful, Repeat and Serious Shock Hazard and Other Violations:
  • Workers who were exposed to potential electric shock from exposed, energized wires in a restroom that the company knew of, but did not correct. Five repeat citations were issued for defective work ladders, unsecured oxygen and acetylene cylinders and inadequate eyewashing facilities.
  • Serious citations were issued for obstructed exit routes, improper storage and disposal of combustible material, damaged gas pressure regulators and inadequately grounded electrical equipment.
5.  $213,300 for Willful Fall Protection Violations:
  • Workers were exposed to fall and other hazards while performing roofing work at three residential sites. Employees were allowed to work on elevated surfaces without fall protection. One serious violation was cited for failing to inspect a fall harness that had previously been involved in an impact event.
6.  $178,860 for Trenching Hazards:
  • An excavating company was cited for 12 safety violations involving trenching hazards when inspectors found unprotected trenches at two different work sites - one 7 feet deep and the other more than 5 feet deep. Two willful violations involve failing to provide a protective system to prevent a trench cave-in.
  • Five repeat violations, with $73,920 in penalties, involve failing to instruct workers in the recognition and avoidance of hazardous conditions, provide a safe means of egress from trenches and ensure excavations are inspected daily by a competent person. The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Three serious violations were cited for the lack of reflective vests for workers exposed to vehicular traffic and excavated material not farther than 2 feet from the edge of the trench.
7.  $170,107 for 30+ Violations, Including PPE:
  • Four repeat violations involve failing to provide fire extinguisher, noise and chemical hazards training; perform medical evaluations of workers required to use respirators and to fit-test respirators. Twenty-six serious violations include failing to ensure use of personal protective equipment, prevent use of damaged personal protective equipment and conduct annual audiograms.
  • OSHA also found fall hazards, poor housekeeping, inoperative safety latches on crane hoists, lack of machine guarding on multiple machines, electric safety violations and failure to inspect and train workers on energy control procedures.
8.  $119,700 for Unsafe Spray Finishing Operations:

  • This manufacturer received 28 safety and health violations, including multiple violations of OSHA's flammable liquids and spray finishing standards. Serious violations including lack of a written hazard communication program; not providing employees information and training on hazardous chemicals present in the work environment; lack of machine guarding; failure to ensure use of eye protection during welding operations; and failing to properly secure and store welding gas cylinders. The company also was cited for excessive flammable residues found on interior surfaces of a spray booth.
  • Several violations involve respirator protection standards, and violations of electrical standards were also cited, including the use of flexible cords instead of fixed wiring, lack of strain relief and obstructing the space around electrical panels.
9.  $105,000 for Process Safety Management:
Following a fire investigation the company received 21 serious violations include failing to compile process safety information for safety systems, such as emergency shutdowns; ensure equipment complies with recognized and good engineering practices, such as relief systems; address various elements of a process safety hazards analysis, including the use of a methodology appropriate to the complexity of the process, human factors, facility siting and addressing action items or recommendations in a timely manner; inspect and test equipment, including vessels and piping and identify safeguards; and perform the lockout/tagout of equipment and processes and provide training for employees in the use of lockout/tagout.

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