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December 16, 2014

Top 10 OSHA Fines of 2014 Surpass $9.2 Million

The top 10 OSHA fines of 2014 totaled more than $9.2 million. Significant fines (over $100,000) for the same period averaged some $2.6 million/month, and totaled $30 million

Here's a list of the top 10 workplace safety fines OSHA has issued so far this year. Some are still pending final decisions


1. $2.4 million settlement with Republic Steel

The 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. $2.3 Million and SVEP for asbestos & lead exposure at a New York worksite

A 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.


3. $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.

4. $816,500 for false abatement documentation, continued machine hazards at an Ohio manufacturer 

A 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.


5. $560,000 for willful machine guard violations at Texas rubber manufacturer

Following an incident where a machine operator's arms were crushed, OSHA issued eight willful violations for failing to provide one or more methods of machine guarding to protect workers from hazards created by rotating parts while operating manual lathes and other equipment.


6. $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. 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. 


7. $497,000 and SVEP for willful confined space violations and more at an Illinois metal recycling plant

The company was cited for seven willful and one serious safety violations following the death of a worker whose arm was caught in a conveyor belt. At least three other workers were also exposed to dangerous, unguarded machines during cleaning operations. The workers entered a shredder discharge pit through a 2.5- by 3.5-foot opening to shovel metal scrap onto a takeaway conveyor system. This conveyor was not guarded and the shredder was not locked out prior to the workers entering the pit.

Willful violations include failing to implement training, procedures and practices for safe entry into the shredder pit and failing to inform employees of the dangers present in pit. The company also failed to prepare entry permits prior to allowing cleaning activities inside of the pit. Other willful violations include failing to utilize lockout-tagout and failing to conduct periodic inspections of equipment-specific lock out/tag out procedures. 


8. $449,680 and SVEP for 23 willful and repeat violations at a Wisconsin chemical company

OSHA initiated an inspection in December 2013 after the company failed to fix hazards following an April 2012 fire. Five willful violations involve failing to establish safe operating procedures, develop safety information for equipment, correct problems and perform tests and inspections in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendation. Two more involve failing to provide specific procedures to protect workers from dangerous machines during maintenance, to provide ventilation for emissions, and to remove and replace temporary wiring installed during the fire restoration project.

OSHA cited one repeat violation for not properly fitting employees required to wear full and half-face, air-purifying respirators. 15 serious violations included process safety management regulations; forklift training; storage and availability of fire extinguishers; training employees on the proper use of personal protective equipment to avoid skin and respiratory tract contact with chemical irritants; obstructed exit routes; and violations of lockout/tagout procedures to isolate energy.



9. $355,300 for willful fall and other hazards at a Florida roofing company

OSHA initiated inspections beginning in March 2014 as part of its Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction, and cited the employer for 12 violations, including failure to use available fall protection equipment, because they didn't have tie-down brackets.

Three willful violations, carrying $210,000 in penalties for failure to provide fall protection systems. Four repeat violations, with $108,900 in penalties, were cited for allowing workers to use powered nail guns without eye and face protection and for failing to extend ladders 3 feet above the landing surface for roof access. Three serious violations included using extension ladders improperly at two locations and failure to require employees to face the ladder when descending from the roof, and another violation for not clearing debris from the area around the bottom of the ladder.


10. $352,000 for whistleblower violations at a Wisconsin railway

A 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.

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