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March 24, 2015

OSHA Issues 13 Significant Fines for $3.7 Million in February '15

OSHA released details on 13 significant fines in February. Proposed fines total $3.7 million, compared to $3.1 million in January. A single case contributed nearly half of the February total. Common citations included machine safety, amputation and chemical hazards.

$1.76 million fine and SVEP after 1,000 injuries in past 36 months
at a Wisconsin furniture manufacturer

Do not operate without guards
In July 2014, a worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine without required safety mechanisms in place. A resulting inspection identified 12 willful, 12 repeat and 14 serious safety violations and placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for failure to address the hazards.

In a 3.5-year period, more than 1,000 work-related injuries were recorded at the manufacturer. OSHA says the company "intentionally and willfully disregarded OSHA standards and its own corporate safety manuals to encourage workers to increase productivity and meet deadlines. The company apparently blamed the victims for their own injuries, but there is clear evidence that injuries were caused by the unsafe conditions created by the company."

Inspectors say the company did not take the necessary steps to protect its workers from being injured by moving machine parts. It did not prevent machines from unintentionally starting when workers were changing tools, and also failed to provide adequate safety mechanisms to prevent contact with those moving parts. 14 serious violations included failure to train workers on safety procedures and hazards present when servicing machinery, inadequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials, electrical safety violations and lack of readily-accessible emergency stop buttons. See the citations here

$278,440 for lead paint exposure on an Illinois bridge project

Lead containing material Follow company's lead safety programWorkers were exposed to dangerous lead hazards while sandblasting the steel structure of a bridge in July, 2014. OSHA initiated an inspection under the National Emphasis Program for Lead after observing employees working without personal protective equipment. Four willful, one serious and two repeat safety violations were cited. The company has been cited 13 previous times for violating the lead construction standards.

The contractor was issued four willful violations for failing to provide personal protective clothing and clean changing areas and hygiene facilities to prevent lead from traveling home with workers. The company also failed to provide written notice to an employee who was overexposed to lead, resulting in the issuance of one serious violation. Two violations were cited for failing to provide an on-site lead compliance program and to post lead warning signs in work areas. The company was cited for similar violations in 2011. See the citations here.

$242,940 and SVEP for repeat amputation hazards at a Michigan shipyard

Do not operate machine without safety guards in placeWorkers continued to be exposed to dangerous amputation hazards while operating press brakes, which cut metal pieces weighing up to 450 tons, because safety mechanisms were not in place at a Michigan shipyard. In the past six years, OSHA inspectors found similar hazards three times. An August 2014 follow-up inspection produced penalties of $242,940 for five repeated, three willful and 10 serious safety violations, including fall and respiratory hazards. The company has also been placed in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Three willful violations were assessed for struck-by hazards, machine hazards and falls and trips from unguarded manholes and unprotected edges. Inspectors also found repeat violations of respiratory protection standards. Crane slings were not inspected every three months and inspection records were not maintained as required. The company also was cited for machines with inadequate protective devices, failure to provide written lockout / tagout procedures and training, as well as unmarked exit signs and failure to post fire watches during welding activities. A total of 10 serious violations were issued. View the current citations here.

$229,228 in damages for whistleblower retaliation by U.S. Postal Service -
against a safety specialist

Report all accidentsSeven years ago a Postal Service safety specialist advised a co-worker to call OSHA about her workplace health concerns. Soon after, the safety pro found himself working in an increasingly hostile work environment. In the next months, the worker was transferred to another office, forced to work in an unheated storage room, demoted, restricted on his movements, publicly humiliated and subjected to four openly antagonistic interviews as part of workplace investigations. He was also issued a disciplinary letter and refused a promotion. In April 2008, the specialist filed his first whistleblower complaint with OSHA in Seattle. Several more complaints would follow as hostilities increased.

An OSHA investigation later confirmed the employee's complaints and acted on his behalf. On Feb. 13, a U.S. District Judge in Seattle agreed with OSHA's findings that the employee clearly engaged in protected activities under the OSH Act by assisting his co-worker on a health and safety concern and by filing his own whistleblower complaints alleging retaliation and harassment. 

$179,000 for confined space and other violations at an Ohio freight-handling company

Confined space test atmosphere before enteringWorkers were exposed to suffocation risks from dangerous fumes when entering transport tankers that had been tested or properly ventilated. Following an employee complaint, OSHA inspected and issued two willful and six serious safety violations involving permit-required confined spaces and fall hazards.

OSHA's investigation found the company did not ventilate tankers to eliminate and control atmospheric hazards and failed to test and monitor atmospheric conditions before allowing workers to enter and clean them. Employees were also exposed to fall hazards of nearly 11 feet while cleaning the tankers, resulting in the issuance of the two willful violations. Six serious citations were issued for failure to develop a confined space entry permit program to train workers on hazards, procedures for summoning emergency services and providing monitors when an employee entered a confined space. Electrical safety violations were also noted. View the citations here.

8 additional significant OSHA fines announced in February:

  • $158,000 for 21 electrocution, serious fall and other hazards at an Alabama auto parts manufacturer
  • $139,800 for repeat machine safety violations at an Ohio manufacturer
  • $133,540 and SVEP for repeat amputation, explosion and other hazards at an Ohio pallet facility
  • $122,500 and SVEP for repeat amputation and other hazards at an Ohio box manufacturer
  • $119,000 for explosion and forklift hazards at a Missouri freight company
  • $114,800 and SVEP for fall protection hazards at an Illinois tower service company
  • $110,200 for 21 hazardous chemical and other violations at a Texas plating company
  • $108,800 for machine and lockout/tagout hazards at a Maine textile manufacturer
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