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May 14, 2014

OSHA Fines and Penalties Top $6.1 Million in April 2014

OSHA issued eight significant fines in April with proposed fines of $3.8 million, and also reached a settlement for an additional $2.4 million for previous citations. (The combined total is 10 times higher than total March fines!) Common citations included machine guarding, railings and whistleblower violations. Most are still pending final decisions. Here are some details:

$2.4 million settlement with Republic Steel
arc flash and shock hazardThe comprehensive settlement, in which the company agrees to abate all cited hazards and implement numerous safeguards to prevent future injuries, addresses more than 100 safety and health violations found by OSHA at company facilities during 2013 inspections. They include arc flash, lockout/tagout, machine guarding and fall hazards at various facilities. Republic also agreed to additional penalty amounts if it fails to comply with the agreement.

In addition, the company will hire additional safety and health staff; conduct internal safety and health inspections with union representatives; establish and implement a comprehensive safety and health management program; hire third-party auditors; and meet quarterly with OSHA staff to assure implementation of the agreement. 

$2.3 Million and SVEP for asbestos & lead exposure at a New York worksite
caution asbestos hazard do not disturb without proper training and equipmentA real estate development / management company exposed its employees, and employees for 13 contractors, to asbestos and lead hazards during cleanup operations in preparation for a tour of the site by potential investors. 

The company failed to inform workers about asbestos and lead, despite knowing that both hazards existed. As a result, the company did not train employees in the hazards of asbestos and lead and the need and nature of required safeguards; monitor workers’ exposure levels; provide appropriate respiratory protection; post notices, warning signs and labels to alert workers and contractors to the presence of asbestos and lead. The company also did not provide clean changing and decontamination areas for workers, many of whom wore their contaminated clothing home to households with small children. This resulted in 45 willful and one serious citations.
$352,000 for whistleblower violations at a Wisconsin railway
Safety First. Report all injuries immediatelyA subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway was ordered to pay a conductor $352,082.75 for back wages, taxes, compensatory and punitive damages. The worker was within a 60-day probationary period when an  injury occurred. The injury was reported later that day, but not before the end of his shift. On his last day of probation, he was issued a removal-from-service letter that rejected his employment application. Later, the railroad stated that he had violated a company rule by failing to report an injury before his workday ended.

$298,000 for repeat stairway, machine guarding and other hazards at a New York paper mill
Inspections initiated as part of OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting inspection plan found serious violations including stairways that lacked railings; paper making machines that lacked guarding; exposure to combustible paper dust and various electrical issues. Ten repeat violations were issued for hazards related to falls, lack of eyewash stations and additional machine guarding and electrical hazards.

$211,000 for repeat, serious hazards at Montana grain-handling facilities
Warning. combustible dust area14 serious, three repeat and two other-than-serious violations include: failing to test air quality in permit-required confined spaces for hazardous gases, contaminants, combustible dust or lack of oxygen prior to allowing entry by workers; failing to have effective procedures to remove fugitive grain dust accumulations; failing to have safe electrical equipment in combustible dust areas; inadequate confined space entry and recovery procedures; inadequate machine guarding; obstructed exit routes; and live exposed electrical wiring. 

  • OSHA's Grain Handling Facilities standard, 29 CFR 1910.272, contains the rules that must be followed. Get more information here.

$185,400 for willful and repeat violations at a New Jersey fabric manufacturer
Out of service Do not remove this tagFollowing two workplace incidents leaving one machine operator's hand crushed and another with a partial hand amputation, OSHA issued one repeat and 12 serious safety violations, including failure to provide required machine guarding. The willful violation reflects the company's failure to use danger tags and proper guards on machinery to warn and protect employees from burn hazards. The repeat violation was due to a lack of machine guarding

Serious violations include: Missing railings, improperly stored LP gas containers, lack of danger tags to warn of burn hazards, inadequate lockout/tagout procedures and training, and lack of training for employees operating powered industrial trucks.

$166,000 for willful health violations after an acid spill at a Wisconsin manufacturer
Danger. Acid wear protective equipmentAbout 15-20 gallons of phosphoric/sulfuric acid were released from an overpressurized hose at the facility. OSHA's investigation found that employees were directed to perform clean-up operations despite the company's written policy to bring in qualified outside services for this type of work. Following the cleanup, employees started to experience symptoms of exposure to acid, including shortness of breath, headache, skin irritation and burns. The respiratory distress required urgent medical care.

OSHA cited two willful violations for directing employees to respond to an acid spill without conducting a hazard evaluation, lack of personal protective equipment and failing to train workers in emergency response procedures. Four serious safety violations including failing to develop an emergency response plan; provide decontamination and first aid treatment for responders; and provide respiratory and personal protective equipment for use during cleanup.

$124,000 for failing to abate machine guarding violations at a Texas metal fabricator
Caution. do not operate without guardsA recent investigation was conducted after the company failed to provide proof of abatement regarding safety hazards found during a 2013 inspection. At that time, the company was cited for failing to guard dangerous machinery to prevent worker injuries, install seat belt on a forklift and repair broken fastener for a forklift fuel cylinder. Proposed penalties were $11,600, which the company has not paid.

$123,000 for whistleblower violations at Iowa waste removal company
OSHA determined the company wrongfully terminated a truck driver for raising safety concerns during the reorganization of company routes. The driver was terminated after raising repeated concerns to the company's owner about new procedures being implemented. The employee rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner. The company was ordered to reinstate the driver to his former position with all pay, benefits and rights, in addition to paying back wages of $23,203, plus interest. OSHA ordered the company to pay $50,000 in compensatory and $50,000 in punitive damages and attorney's fees. Information on employee whistleblower rights is available at

$106,000 for chemical exposure at Florida tank and vessel manufacturer
Caution. Wear your respiratorOSHA cited 23 safety and health violations, including exposing full-time and temporary workers to health hazards from exposure to the toxic chemical hexavalent chromium. Nineteen serious violations involve: exposing workers to hexavalent chromium above exposure limits; failing to conduct initial monitoring of hexavalent chromium to determine the eight hour exposure average; failing to provide medical surveillance for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium for more than 30 days and failing to provide appropriate respirators for workers. Additionally, the employer failed to ensure all hoist load hooks were equipped with a safety latch to avoid struck-by hazards, and to protect employees working adjacent to the welding area from ultraviolet welding arcs.

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