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A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ComplianceSigns.com

December 13, 2013

Top November 2013 OSHA Fines Exceed $3 Million


OSHA issued 13 6-figure citations with a total proposed value topping $3.1 million in November. Whistleblower and construction citations were common. Here are some details of the cases. Most are still pending final decisions.

$1,070,123 for firing whistleblowers at a North Carolina trucking company

    Caution This Vehicle Makes Wide Turns
  • A whistleblower complaint alleged that four truck drivers were terminated for participating in an inspection audit of the company facilities, which was conducted by the DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. From Feb. 28 through March 1, 2012, the four employees were interviewed on-site by the FMCSA. On March 8, following the audit and subsequent citations issued against the company, the workers suffered adverse retaliation by company officials, including termination, layoffs and removal of employee benefits.
  • The order includes preliminary reinstatement of employees, back wages, interest, compensatory damages of $215,657 and punitive damages of $675,000. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

$313,000 for willful and serious safety violations following fatal June building collapse in Philadelphia

  • Safety violations include three willful per-instance violations following a building collapse that killed six people and injured 14. Demolition construction standards violations include egregious violations for leaving a wall without sufficient lateral support, and two willful violations alleging the failures to demolish the building from the top down and to have an engineering survey by a competent person on the possibility of collapse prior to starting the demolition. 
  • Serious violations included failure to provide: employees with hard hats when there was a possible risk of head injury; fall protection for employees working on surfaces at least six feet high; training on fall hazards; and adequate personal fall arrest systems; failure to inspect stairs and maintain them in a clean, safe condition; failing to protect employees from falling through holes and to provide fall hazard training.

OVERSIZE$302,000 for Whistleblower violations at an Ohio manufacturer

The owner of a closed Ohio company was ordered to pay two Ohio truck drivers $302,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor for terminating two of the company's drivers. The drivers were dismissed after one was stopped by West Virginia State Police and cited for: hauling an excess load without a commercial driver's license, operating an overweight trailer and driving without a logbook. The commercial vehicle also did not have the name of the company, its home base or its U.S. Department of Transportation number displayed. The driver who was cited informed another driver, who was also operating without the proper information displayed, and they refused to continue driving until these issues were resolved. Consequently, both were terminated.

$177,100 for repeat violations at a Mississippi boat construction company

  • Repeat violations, with $115,500 in penalties, involve failure to maintain dry floors, replace welding cords with exposed conductors, provide guards or covers for open hatches and provide guardrails on the open sides of the deck. The company received citations for similar violations in 2010 and 2011 at the same facility.
  • Serious violations, with $61,600 in penalties, include failure to legibly mark circuit breakers; guard live, 120-volt electrical parts from accidental contact; close unused openings in electrical boxes; prevent flexible hoses from being submerged in water; and not elevating hoses and cords above decks and hallways. Additionally, the employer failed to tag slings with the manufacturer's recommended safe working loads; prevent loads from being suspended over the heads of workers; provide safe access to mobile scaffolding; repair the travel alarm on a gantry crane; and dry and test welding machines after a rainstorm. 

$169,000 for repeat and serious violations at a New York discount store

    Emergency exit do not block
  • OSHA found several hazardous conditions similar to those previously cited at stores in other states, including exit routes and aisles blocked by piles and pallets of merchandise, as well as improperly stacked boxes containing merchandise. The obstructed aisles and exit routes compromise safe exiting in an emergency, while the improperly stacked boxes, some of which were crushed and leaning, could fall and strike workers.
  • The New York store inspection also resulted in five serious citations with $22,000 in fines for failure to properly mark and post aisles, and exit routes and doors that could be mistaken for exits; lack of portable fire extinguisher training; and lack of training, material safety data sheets and a written hazard communication program for workers using chemical cleansers. 

$165,200 for willful and serious crane violations at New York marine construction contractor

  • Following a May 22 crane collapse, an OSHA inspection found the crane lacked boom stops and a boom hoist limiting device, necessary safety devices that would have prevented the boom from falling backward. The crane had not been inspected by a competent person. These hazards resulted in two willful citations carrying $98,000 in fines. 
  • Fourteen serious citations, with $67,200 in fines, involve hazards related to the set up, operation and maintenance of the crane and a barge, including failing to conduct additional, required daily, monthly and annual inspections of the crane, the barge and the crane's wire lifting ropes; ensure that load charts, with the crane's correct lifting capacity, were in the crane; reduce the crane's rated lifting capacity to account for operating on the barge; ensure that the cabling system used to secure the crane to the barge is sufficiently sized and strong to support the crane's load; ensure that the barge was structurally sufficient; and erect control lines or railing to mark the crane's swing/crush zone. 

$158,015 for fall hazard exposure by Illinois roofing company

    Safety Belt and Lifeline Required
  • Five safety violations followed inspections at three job sites where workers were not provided fall protection during the installation of shingles on residential roofs. Since 2009, the company has been cited in five inspections for similar violations.
  • Willful violations were cited for failing to ensure workers used fall protection while performing residential roofing. The inspections were initiated under the national emphasis program for fall safety. Two serious violations were cited for failing to provide eye protection to workers who used pneumatic nail guns and provide a ladder to access upper landings safely. OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. 

$156,240 and SVEP following fatal injury at Wisconsin mill/manufacturer

  • A worker was fatally injured while servicing machinery that had not been locked out to prevent unexpected startup. Two willful violations were cited for failing to train workers authorized to perform servicing on equipment in hazardous energy control procedures and to control electrical energy sources by installing lockout/tagout devices during maintenance and cleaning of machinery. Previous inspections include citations from 2012 for the lack of a lockout/tagout program and workers' training on the control of hazardous energy.
  • Five serious violations involve failing to have guarding on power transmission flywheels and the power transmission belt on the edger; address a waste conveyer belt with visible damage on the belt edge; train and evaluate forklift operators; address a damaged electrical control button on the mill; identify disconnecting means for a mill and saw equipment; close unused openings on boxes, cabinets and fittings effectively; and install faceplates and covers on electrical boxes.

$147,000 following worker fatality at New York telecommunications company

CAUTION Electrocution HazardA settlement was reached regarding OSHA citations in connection with the fatal electrocution of an employee on Sept. 14, 2011, in Brooklyn. Under the agreement, two repeat violations and one serious violation are affirmed, with a penalty of $147,000, and the telecommunications company will provide enhanced electrical safety training and other safeguards to its New York field technicians who install suspension strand on utility poles that carry power lines.

$121,720 for workplace safety hazards at a New York meat production plant

  • 11 serious violations include mechanical, electrical and fall hazards, as well as a deficient process safety management program for an ammonia-based refrigeration system. Hazards include failing to guard skylights and roof hatchway, machine guarding, provide safety-related work practices to prevent electric shock and arc flash burns, and provide workers with protective equipment when using energized equipment.
  • Recurring hazards found in New York and other facilities involve documentation failures, not guarding floor holes and not maintaining a sufficient work space in front of electrical equipment. 

$115,000 for 21 serious violations at a New Hampshire textile manufacturer

    DANGER Arc Flash hazard
  • 21 serious violations include failing to protect a worker exposed to an arc flash where electrical equipment had not been de-energized prior to servicing; provide fall protection equipment, face shields and insulated gloves; identify confined workspace hazards and provide workers with adequate entry safeguards; provide guarding on moving machine parts; lockout machinery for servicing; and train workers in safe electrical work practices. 
  • In addition, the company failed to provide workers with timely baseline audiograms and training or refitted hearing protection to those who experienced a standard threshold shift in their hearing.

$108,000 for repeat violations at New York refurbishing plant

The company was slapped with additional fines for not correcting safety and health hazards cited during previous inspections. OSHA cited the company in April 2013 for 15 serious safety and health violations. The company did not respond to the citations and to OSHA's repeat attempts to contact the company to verify correction of hazards. As a result, OSHA performed a follow-up inspection.

    Cylinders must be chained at all times
  • The eight uncorrected hazards include: failing to provide a guardrail to prevent falls from an open-sided floor; ensure an exit did not discharge to a public way; mark emergency exits; provide explosion-proof wiring and equipment for areas where flammable gases or vapors are present; develop a written chemical hazard communication program; and provide training and safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. 
  • Three repeat citations, with $8,800 in fines, involve failing to ensure to keep an exit route unobstructed, maintain walls and work surfaces free of combustible residue accumulation, and to provide respirator users with information and medical evaluations. 
  • Twelve serious citations, with $19,200 in fines, included failing to provide PPE; secure compressed gas cylinders; provide protective footwear and address forklift, machine guarding and electrical hazards. 

$108,000 for fall protection violations at construction company in American Samoa 

  • Following a fatal fall, OSHA cited a willful violation of fall protection safety standards. A repeat violation was issued for failing to maintain material safety data sheets and provide training and information on hazardous chemicals kept on-site. 
  • Serious violations include absence of a certified first-aid responder on-site, lack of fall protection training, use of inadequate ladders and improper use and maintenance of filtering facepiece respirators. 

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