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September 24, 2014

Top OSHA Fines Exceed $2.2 Milion in August 2014

Machine Locked Out Do Not OpenOSHA issued just eight significant fines in August (down from 12 in July) with a proposed total of $2.27 million. The top three fines were issued for whistleblower violations. Other common violations included: lockout / tagout and fall hazards. Most cases are still pending final decisions. Here are some details:

$1 Million for Firing Whistleblowers at a Michigan Asphalt Company
A foreman was terminated after repeatedly raising concerns that job assignments repeatedly failed to allow for the 10-hour rest period mandated by the Department of Transportation. At least twice, the foreman and the crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight. OSHA has ordered the foreman to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $147,457; $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.


Two drivers were fired after raising similar and additional concerns. Both were ordered to be reinstated with back wages and each is to receive $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

$262,500 for Whistleblower Complaint at a North Carolina Motor Carrier

Four former truck drivers were terminated for participating in an inspection audit, in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The complaint alleged that employees were terminated for participating in an inspection audit conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that identified log violations. The employees were interviewed by the FMCSA. On March 8, following the audit and subsequent citations issued against Gaines Motor Lines, the workers suffered adverse retaliation by company officials, including termination, layoffs and removal of employee benefits.

The settlement requires the employer to pay the workers a total of $262,500, which includes all back pay and interest, and compensatory damages. Additionally, the company will post the OSHA and whistleblower posters in the workplace and provide training regarding STAA protected rights to all workers.

$220,000 for Whistleblower Violation at a Washington Nuclear Facility
A contractor for a Department of Energy nuclear facility has been ordered to reinstate an environmental specialist and pay more than $220,000 in back wages and other expenses after it fired the employee for voicing nuclear and environmental safety concerns. The employee repeatedly reported nuclear and environmental safety and permit and record-keeping violations. When the employer advertised the vacant position, the employer refused to rehire the employee despite adequate qualifications and previous satisfactory performance reviews.

$188,500 for Silica Dust, Amputation and Other Hazards at a Georgia Paint Manufacturer
Warning Dust Inhalation Hazard
An inspection was conducted following a complaint alleging improper storage of material and inadequate forklift training. One repeat violation was cited for allowing employees to perform maintenance and servicing of equipment without ensuring the machine could not restart. 26 serious violations included: exposing employees to crystalline silica at levels of more than two times the exposure limit; failing to develop procedures to protect workers from moving machine parts during servicing and maintenance; exposing workers to crushing and struck-by hazards by not replacing or repairing damaged storage rack shelving; and allowing electrical equipment to be installed or used without following manufacturer instructions. 

The employer also failed to: administer and implement an occupational noise monitoring program; provide adequate protective equipment; and develop or implement a written hazard communication program for employees working with hazardous chemicals.

OSHA has recently proposed updates to its silica standard. OSHA just concluded three weeks of hearings on the proposed rule and is now receiving post-hearing comments. Additional information on the proposed rule, including five fact sheets, is available at http://www.osha.gov/silica/.

$184,400 for Repeat Hot and Fall Hazards at an Oklahoma Refinery
Five repeat citations, with a penalty of $170,500, were issued for failing to ensure that: workers were protected from contact with hot surfaces of refinery process equipment; floor grating in the processing unit was secure and level; ladder floor openings and open-sided floors were guarded to prevent falls from heights; and electrical equipment and wiring were maintained in a safe condition.

Three serious violations, with a penalty of $14,300, were cited for failing to ensure anchoring of posts and framing for fall protection railings were complete and effective; to ensure floor holes in walking and working surfaces were guarded or covered; and to ensure metal fan blades were guarded effectively.

$174,240 for Lockout-Tagout Violations at a Texas Plastics Manufacturer
OSHA conducted an inspection after a safety referral was made during a health inspection initiated under the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program. Six repeat violations, with a penalty of $112,860, were cited for failing to address specific lockout/tagout techniques for the servicing and maintenance of machinery and conduct annual inspections of these techniques and procedures. The employer failed to ensure workers had operable portable fire extinguishers and were trained to use them. Improper maintenance resulted in electrical hazards, including conductors with damaged insulation.

15 additional violations, including 11 serious with a penalty of $61,380, were cited for failure to ensure workers knew the type and magnitude of energy that needed lockout control; provide machine guarding on injection molding machines; maintain electrical components and equipment in a manner that complies with safety requirements; properly record injuries and illnesses; adequately distribute portable fire extinguishers; and replace damaged circuit breaker boxes.

$134,400 for Hazchem Violations at an Illinois Chemical Distributor

OSHA issued 19 safety and health violations, including one willful, after receiving a complaint. Investigation found the company did not provide employees with an effective training program, including information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals, which resulted in the willful citation.

Inspectors also found the company did not implement engineering controls to reduce employee exposure and failed to label containers with information that identified and warned of hazardous chemicals contained inside. Workers were exposed to quantities of chemicals greater than the OSHA permissible exposure limit. Other serious violations included failure to provide fall protection; a sanitary work environment; follow respiratory protection standards; and train workers on confined space requirements, the use of personal protective equipment and proper operation of powered industrial vehicles. Additional violations included lack of specific lockout/tagout procedures and exposing workers to live electrical parts by failing to shut down equipment during service and maintenance.

$110,880 for Fall Hazards at Illinois Roofing Contractor
This contractor has been cited for three willful safety violations for exposing workers to fall hazards at two separate residential home sites. This is the fifth time OSHA has cited the company for similar violations in the past three years. The company has not cooperated with OSHA during previous inspections, nor has it paid any portion of the $110,880 in total penalties assessed from those inspections.

OSHA compliance officers observed employees working on residential roofs without fall protection. Failing to provide required fall protection is one of the most frequently cited OSHA standards. A third willful violation was cited when the inspector observed workers exiting the roof via an extension ladder that only extended 1 foot above the upper landing surface of the roof. OSHA regulations require that ladders extend 3 feet over the landing for safe access. Visit the OSHA Stop Falls Web page at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls for detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards.

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