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August 12, 2014

Top OSHA Fines Reach $2.6 Million in July 2014

OSHA issued 12 significant fines in July - up from 9 in June - with a proposed total of $2.59 million. Common violations included: lockout / tagout, fall protection and fire hazards. Most cases are still pending final decisions. Here are some details:

$816,500 for false abatement documentation, continued machine hazards at an Ohio manufacturer 

danger do not openA January SVEP follow-up inspection found false abatement documentation and that employees had been exposed to unguarded machines and unsafe maintenance procedures well after the employer's abatement claims. Nine willful citations were issued for failing to prevent the start up of multiple hydraulic presses and other machines while workers were performing set-up, service and maintenance inside the machines. The company also failed to develop proper lockout/tag out procedures and encouraged workers to use unsafe methods to stop machines for maintenance. 

Four repeat violations involve failing to train workers to properly stop machines before service and maintenance, which continuously exposed machine operators to laceration, amputation, burns and having parts of the machine strike or crush them. The company failed to have identifying information on devices to indicate hazards.

$305,100 for 16 serious, repeat, failure-to-abate violations at a Texas barge builder

When the company did not respond to several 2013 citations, a follow-up inspection was conducted in January 2014, revealing that several of the hazardous conditions had not been corrected. Three failure-to-abate violations were issued for continuing to expose workers to machine, struck-by and fall hazards. 

Four repeat violations were cited for failing to equip surfaces 5 feet or higher with guardrails and replace worn and frayed electrical cords. The remaining 12 violations included failure to train workers who were operating forklifts; to perform regular crane inspections and guard portable machinery; and to provide hearing protection for workers exposed to noise. 

$228,690 for repeat and willful fall protection violations at a Florida construction company

fall protection requiredOSHA inspectors observed employees at four work sites performing residential construction at heights up to 28 feet without using a fall protection system. The company has been cited seven times in the past two years for not providing fall protection for residential construction employees

A willful violation was cited for failure to provide fall protection systems, and a repeat violation was cited for allowing workers to use a ladder improperly. The company was cited for the same violations in May 2013. Serious violations included failing to provide fall protection training and allowing employees to access a second floor stairwell that was not protected by handrails on both sides. 

OSHA's fall prevention page has detailed information on fall protection standards. 

$178,400 for 23 violations at an Arkansas explosives manufacturer

A February 2014 inspection was initiated under OSHA's National Emphasis Program for Process Safety Management Standards. It resulted in 22 serious and one repeat safety and health violations for failing to correct multiple deficiencies in chemical process safety management, as well as other safety hazards.

Serious violations included failure to include OSHA-accepted chemical limits in the company's process safety information; to certify annually that the written operating procedures were current and accurate; to develop diagrams of the explosive manufacturing processes in the facility; and to train workers tasked with chemical and hazardous material cleanups. A repeat violation involved failing to conduct a process safety management compliance audit. 

$177,800 for exposing employees to serious safety hazards at a Massachusetts discount retailer 

Notice Do Not Block doorThis national chain has been cited multiple times for blocked exits and hazardous conditions in stockrooms. Inspections of a Boston-area store found merchandise in the stockroom was consistently stacked in an unstable and unsecured manner that exposed workers to crushing injuries. Emergency exit routes were blocked by store inventory, shopping carts, a conveyor and garbage. In addition, the store failed to maintain a means of access to an electrical control panel so that employees could turn off the store's electrical power in the event of an emergency. The company was cited for three willful violations and one one serious violation for allowing trash and garbage to accumulate throughout the stockroom, creating tripping and exit hazards for the workers. 

$161,100 for preventable fire, chemical, mechanical hazards at a New York foundry coke plant

Following a January explosion that collapsed brick walls, damaged electrical equipment and injured three workers, OSHA concluded the company failed to inspect and maintain safety systems properly to ensure their effectiveness.

15 serious violations were cited for hazards included missing guardrails; obstructed emergency exit routes and a defective exit door; failure to lockout machines' power sources before performing maintenance; use of uninspected cranes, lifting ropes and unguarded saws; improperly stored oxygen cylinders; and failure to determine employees' levels of exposure to the hazardous substance hexavalent chromium and training them about its hazards.

Two repeat violations were issued for recurring hazards, failing to train employees in lockout procedures and not certifying inspections of lockout procedures. 

$158,000 for repeat workplace safety violations at a New Jersey location of a national retailer 

Area in front of panel must be kept clearOSHA inspected the store in January 2014 after receiving a complaint alleging dangerous conditions, and cited the company for stored boxes filled with merchandise in front of electrical boxes; for failure to store material in a way that prevented sliding or collapse; and for failure to provide a cover for fluorescent lights that would prevent accidental contact or breakage. 

This was the third time in less than seven months that the company has been cited by OSHA at three separate locations with penalties in excess of $100,000 each. The company has been cited for one or more of these violations every year since 2010.

$150,560 and SVEP following a fatal structural collapse at an Omaha feed company

In January, 2 workers died and 9 others were injured when overloaded rooftop storage bins caused a truss failure and the bins collapsed three floors into the center of the facility in about 30 seconds. The company was cited with one willful, one repeat and 11 additional safety violations for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with structural collapse.

A repeat violation was issued for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with using compressed air at greater than the recommended 30 psi. Nine serious violations were cited for combustible dust hazards including failure to provide proper dust ventilation and failure to follow respiratory protection standards. The company was also cited for failing to train workers on confined space requirements, hazard communication and proper operation of powered industrial vehicles. Other violations included lack of specific lockout/tagout procedures to protect workers operating dangerous machinery and failing to de-energize potential ignition sources when using compressed air for cleaning.

$111,650 for repeated amputation hazards at an Ohio manufacturer

Danger crossing or standing on conveyors is forbiddenOSHA inspected the plant in January after receiving a complaint that workers were reaching into machines to clear jams without turning off the machinery, and that workers were standing on conveyor belts and operating forklifts without proper training. 

Five repeat violations included lack of specific lockout/tagout procedures and machine guarding, failing to develop procedures to control hazardous energy and inadequate forklift training. Similar violations were recorded at other company locations. One serious violation involved lack of machine guarding. Two other-than-serious violations were also noted.

$110,700 for repeat and willful forklift violations at a Chicago retailer

A January inspection was opened under the Local Emphasis Program for Powered Industrial Vehicles, which have been the source of 105 occupational fatalities from 2005 through 2013 in Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio. At the Chicago location, OSHA issued one willful violation for failing to remove from service a powered industrial truck in need of repair. Repeat violations were issued for failing to evaluate forklift operators' performance at least once every three years, and for failing to perform shift-by-shift inspections of forklifts. 

Three serious violations were issued for exposing workers to chemical burns from sulfuric acid by failing to require the use of eye, face and hand protection when adding water or checking water levels in powered industrial vehicle batteries. The company also failed to provide an eyewash station.

$101,300 for repeat electrical hazards and unmarked exits at a New Jersey airport. 

EXITA national airline received 16 citations, including three repeat violations, in a January inspection. Repeat violations included failure to clearly mark exits located inside facilities where food service employees, baggage handlers and gate agents worked; keep unused openings closed on an electrical box where conduit or knockout plugs were located; and use extension cords as a substitute for required permanent wiring. 

Nine serious violations included exposing aircraft mechanics to fall hazards while working from a ground support vehicle and struck-by hazards by storing materials, such as aircraft parts including landing gear tires and aircraft struts and fasteners, on storage racks, which were damaged and not anchored. Three other safety violations involved failing to maintain clean and orderly work areas, and not providing fire extinguisher training for ground operation workers and welders. Additionally, powered industrial trucks in need of repair were not taken out of service, and placards on the trucks were illegible. 

$100,000 for whistleblower violations at a Pennsylvania material handler.

The company has agreed to pay a judgement for violating Section 11(c) of the OSH Act when it fired an employee in retaliation for his safety complaint. The worker raised safety concerns, resulting in an OSHA inspection. Following the inspection, the employee was initially reassigned duties and later terminated from his position. The court ruling also permanently prohibits the defendants from violating the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The judgment requires the defendants to display information prominently on whistleblower protections at the facility; remove all disciplinary action in the employee's official employment record; and provide prospective employers with a neutral reference for the worker.

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