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June 4, 2014

OSHA Fines Top $3 Million in May 2014

report all injuries to your supervisor
Accident Safety Sign
OSHA issued 16 significant fines in May - twice the number issued in April - with a proposed total of $3.1 million. Common citations included machine guarding, fall protection and more whistleblower violations. Most are still pending final decisions. Here are some details:

$526,000 for whistleblower violations at a Fort Worth-based railway

A Texas-based railway company has been ordered to pay more than $526,000 in back wages and other damages to two workers for terminating employees in 2010 and 2011 for reporting a workplace injury that occurred at a Montana terminal. 

"An employer cannot retaliate against employees who report an injury," said OSHA's regional administrator. "OSHA recognizes that employers can legitimately have, and apply, policies to require prompt injury reporting; however, that is not what happened here." The reporting of an injury, regardless of an employer's policy or deadline, is a protected activity under well-established law. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. 

$254,000 and continued SVEP for willful, repeat combustible dust and respiratory hazards at an Illinois pet food processor

Willful and repeat violations include exposing workers to combustible and respiratory dust hazards and failing to install a dust collection system with explosion protection. OSHA also found electrical equipment and forklifts used by the company were not approved for use in combustible-dust atmospheres and lack of engineering controls and mandating respiratory protection. One repeat violation was cited for failing to establish an audio testing program for workers exposed to noise levels above 85 decibels. The company has been inspected 14 times since 2000, resulting in more than 70 violations.

$244,000 for whistleblower violations at an Illinois railway

Another railway company has been ordered to reinstate a conductor and pay him more than $244,000 in back wages and damages for terminating an employee in Flint, Mich. who failed to perform an inspection of a passing train under hazardous safety conditions. Operating in dark, foggy conditions during the early morning, the conductor did not perform a required roll-by inspection of a passing train, which was stopped on a bridge with a steep incline down to the river.

OSHA's investigation found the railroad terminated the employee in retaliation for having engaged in protected conduct under the FRSA, while crew members of the passing train were not held to the same standard. The company has been ordered to pay $99,324 in back wages and benefits, $45,000 in compensatory and $100,000 in punitive damages and reasonable attorney's fees. The company must also remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and provide whistleblower rights information* to its employees.

$210,000 for uncorrected noise and LOTO violations at a New Jersey manufacturer

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Hearing PPE Sign
Violations include failing to protect workers from dangerous levels of noise that can cause permanent hearing loss and failing to protect them from dangerous equipment. A previous inspection resulted in seven serious violations with fines totaling $23,100. The new violations involve failure-to-abate hazards related to implementing a continual and effective hearing conservation program for workers exposed to noise above 85 decibels. It also failed to develop and implement a lockout/tagout program to protect workers from dangerous machinery during servicing or maintenance and train employees on proper procedures. 

$196,000 for willful crushing hazard violations by a Connecticut contractor

A November 2013 inspection at a Bridgeport worksite found workers demolishing and rehabbing a building were exposed to potentially fatal crushing injuries and other hazards due to their employer's failure to brace the building's walls and adhere to basic, legally required safeguards. Two willful violations were issued for wall collapse and fall hazards. 

12 serious violations included having workers dry sweep and shovel lead-containing waste materials and debris, as well as failing to supply workers with proper training, respiratory protection, protective clothing and equipment. In addition, employees were provided inadequate demolition, fall and fire protection, and general safety training. Other safety hazards included unmarked emergency exits, improper storage of oxygen and fuel gas cylinders, and electrical hazards. 

$181,000 following leg entanglement at a Texas fertilizer company

After a worker's leg was entangled in an auger in November 2013, OSHA inspected and issued willful violations for failing to ensure adequate safeguards were in place to prevent workers from coming into contact with the auger during servicing and maintenance. 

The company also received nine serious safety violations, including failure to properly guard machines, electrical equipment and floor openings, such as pits and edges, implement lockout procedures for hazardous energy control and provide access to first aid medical treatment. 

$180,000 for willfully exposing employees to carbon monoxide and dangerous noise levels at a New Jersey snack manufacturer

Carbon Monoxide Safety Sign
Willful violations included exposing employees to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and failure to provide baseline and annual audiograms and implement controls to reduce noise levels. Serious violations were issued for failing to provide employees training in chemical and noise hazards; provide suitable hearing protection; ensure employees who experienced hearing loss were refitted and retrained in the use of hearing protectors; ensure complete recordkeeping of audiometric testing results; provide safe exit routes; and implement a written chemical hazard communication program. 

Some 22 million workers nationwide are exposed to potentially damaging noise yearly, and thousands of workers annually suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. OSHA offers information about noise hazards here.

$168,000 and SVEP following fatal forklift accident at a Detroit marine terminal

pedestrian crossing
Floor Safety Label
In November, a Detroit worker was struck by a 62,000-pound-capacity forklift carrying a 40,000-pound steel coil. Willful citations were issued for modifying a forklift without obtaining manufacturer approval and failing to establish vehicle routes, traffic rules and to post signs indicating pedestrian traffic where employees work

Seven serious safety violations were cited for forklift safety, including failing to train employees on operating instructions, warnings and precautions listed in the operator's manual; maintain vehicles in safe working order; and direct employees to sound the horn when visibility was obstructed. Other citations involved failing to conduct monthly crane inspections and test cargo gear for load capacity.

$160,000 for uncorrected fire and LOTO hazards at a New York tire operation

The company was cited for 16 serious violations in July 2013, but failed to submit proof that it had corrected the hazards, triggering a follow-up inspection in November. In new inspection, 12 failure-to-abate notices were issued for improperly constructed flammable adhesive spray booths located within 20 feet of spark-producing equipment; failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures; lack of machine guarding; and lack of a communications program and training for employees working with hazardous chemicals. Three repeat violations were cited for use of hazardous electrical equipment, accumulation of combustible dust and use of a spark-producing grinder in a flammable area. One serious citation was issued for use of a portable electric lamp in a spraying area during operations. 

$159,390 for repeatedly exposing workers to dangerous lead levels, serious fall hazards at an Illinois painting company

caution renovation work contains lead do not enter work area
Lead Warning Sign
The company has an extensive history of OSHA violations. It received a willful citation for failing to determine employee exposure to lead before directing workers to remove paint with sanders and scrapers. It received seven repeat citations for failing to ensure workers had properly fitted respirators to protect them from lead overexposure and to train them in respiratory use and procedures; dry sweeping debris contaminated with lead-based paint; failing to provide dedicated work shoes or disposable coverlets; and lack of a clean changing area to prevent the spread of lead contamination. It also received a repeat violation for failing to protect workers from fall hazards. 

14 serious violations involved lack of respiratory protection; personal protective equipment; training and administrative controls; and housekeeping practices. Three additional violations involved failing to implement a lead exposure compliance program, improper use of electrical equipment and failing to provide medical recommendations for each employee's ability to use a respirator. Since 2008, the company has been inspected by OSHA 10 times, resulting in multiple violations.

$155,900 for repeated fall and amputation hazards at an Ohio casting plant

A follow-up inspection found workers still exposed to amputation and fall hazards, even after a worker suffered a leg amputation in June 2013. Repeat violations include machine guarding and failing to protect employees from fall hazards associated with an unguarded platform. 

11 serious safety violations involved lack of lockout/tagout procedures, exposing workers to struck-by hazards and failing to maintain an overhead trolley system. The company also failed to inspect cranes and hoists regularly, and broken crane wires were discovered. 

$147,000 for repeat trench violations at an Illinois utility construction company already in SVEP

For the second time this year, the company has been cited for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards at a Chicago job site. The company was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program in January 2014 when it was issued four violations for failing to adhere to trenching standards. 

OSHA issued two willful violations for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench that exceeded 5 feet in depth and failing to support the street pavement above the trench from collapsing on the workers. One serious violation was issued after a competent person found evidence of potential cave-in hazards and failed to remove employees from the hazardous conditions.

$143,000 for willful safety violations at a Delaware retail store

Willful violations were cited because the company failed to keep exit routes unobstructed and ensure material stored in tiers was stacked in a way that was stable to prevent sliding and collapse. One serious violation was issued for failure to ensure fire extinguishers were readily accessible to employees without subjecting them to injury. 

$139,000 for repeatedly exposing workers to amputation hazards at an Ohio machinery manufacturer

caution do not operate without guards
OSHA Machine Guard Sign
OSHA's investigation was initiated following a worker complaint, and the investigation found repeat violations of machine guarding standards, which protect workers from lacerations, caught-in and amputation hazards. Three repeat violations were cited for: inadequate lockout/tagout procedures, exposing workers to unguarded equipment and not labeling chemical containers. 

Six serious violations involved failing to review lockout/tagout devices annually, storing flammable liquids in an exit path, lack of fire extinguisher training, not identifying and providing the correct chemical resistant gloves to be worn, and failing to train workers on personal protective equipment. 

$130,000 and SVEP following fatal skid-steer accident at a Texas construction site

Two construction companies were cited for five violations, including two willful, following the death of a skid-steer operator who was supporting a 3,340-pound concrete stub while another employee used a circular saw to cut the stub from its support column. The stub caused the skid-steer to be overloaded, and it tipped over a ramp wall, falling more than 70 feet to the ground. 

A willful citation was issued for exceeding the operating capacity of the skid-steer loader where the equipment was routinely loaded with concrete until obvious signs of tipping were seen. Another was issued for exposing workers to the hazard of being struck-by the skid-steer loader and concrete. Serious citations included failure to provide effective fall prevention measures; ensure that stop-logs were used to prevent equipment from falling into open holes; and failing to provide fall protection. 

$119,000 and SVEP for fatal fall at a Massachusetts work site

A 51-year-old roofer fell 17 feet to his death while performing roofing work with no fall protection or guard rails that would have prevented the fall from occurring. Two willful violations for lack of fall protection and five serious violations were issued for missing scaffold and walkboard guard rails and failure to train workers how to recognize hazards and work safely on scaffolds, roofs and ladders.

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