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April 10, 2015

March OSHA Activity: 16 Significant Fines at $3.1 Million

OSHA released details on 16 significant fines in March. Proposed fines total $3.1 million, compared to $3.7 million for just 13 cases in February. The top five fines contributed half of the March total. Common citations included machine safety, amputation, fall hazards and whistleblower violations. Here are some details:


$366,400 and SVEP for repeat machine, fall and confined space hazards at an Illinois scrap metal facility

safety belt must be worn
Workers were again exposed to dangerous amputation hazards during maintenance and while processing scrap metal because safety mechanisms were not in place. Inspection resulted in five willful and nine serious safety violations, including fall and confined space hazards. The company had similar violations in 2014 and 2010.

Inspectors found workers exposed to falls and trips from unguarded floor openings, platforms up to 10 feet in height and walking across a conveyor system to enter and exit workstations. Prior to the current OSHA inspections, the company had been inspected seven times in the previous five years and cited for machine hazards at various locations in Illinois and Iowa. View the current citations (pdf).



$350,000 for whistleblower violations at a Nebraska railroad operation

For the third time since 2011, the company has violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by disciplining employees who reported workplace injuries and sought medical attention. Since 2001, the company has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide.

In the most recent case, OSHA investigators determined that a 35-year-employee was disciplined after reporting and receiving medical attention for injuries sustained in collision. The company has been ordered to pay the worker $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and attorney's fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to all employees. Prior to this incident, the employee had never been disciplined. The company's actions "...are indicative of a culture that doesn't show loyalty to their workers or concern for their safety," said OSHA's regional administrator.




$300,000 for whistleblower violations at an Idaho school district

Report all accidentsAn employee who raised concerns about asbestos in a school was terminated, rather than commended for trying to protect students. After questioning whether the timeline of a construction project at a school allowed for safe removal of asbestos, the employee was released. OSHA is seeking employee reinstatement and back pay with interest and other damages of more than $300,000. The suit also seeks an order permanently preventing district from violating anti-retaliation provisions of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.


$294,300 and SVEP for repeat safety hazards at an Illinois manufacturer

The manufacturer has repeatedly ignored machine hazard risks and has been found in violation of safety and health standards four times in the last five years. A September inspection found five repeat and 16 serious safety and health violations, including electrical hazards and failing to train workers in forklift operations and machine hazards.

Inspectors found workers exposed to unguarded foot pedals, point of operation and chains and sprockets, improperly stored pallets of paint, lack of hazardous chemical training, poorly maintained fire extinguishers, uninspected cranes, and lack of welding screens and eye protection. Electrical safety hazards and lack of training were also noted.

OSHA has also cited a temporary staffing agency for failing to train workers on personnel protective equipment needed for the job and the potential hazards of chemicals used in the facility. View the current citations (pdf). 



$272,250 and SVEP following fatal LOTO incident at a Missouri manufacturer

Lockout switches before working on equipmentA 58-year-old maintenance worker was killed after being pinned between a scrap metal table and a railing. Lockout/tagout equipment could have prevented the incident. The company also failed to correct numerous problems related to its lockout/tagout procedures, such as using electronic gate switches as a substitute for an energy-isolating device.

The company failed to train workers on safety procedures and lacked effective safeguards for moving parts on machinery. Inspectors identified unsafe practices related to powered industrial trucks, including allowing employees to work under a load held aloft by the vehicle, exposing them to crushed-by hazards. OSHA also discovered electrical safety hazards involving cabinets that were not closed properly to prevent contact with energized wires and using damaged electrical cables. In total, OSHA cited the company for 12 serious violations. View the current citations (pdf). 


$230,000 for whistleblower retaliation at an Arizona trucking firm

An employee who raised concerns that a truck driver had exceeded driving hours regulations must be reinstated immediately and paid more than $230,000 in back wages and compensatory damages. The employee was responsible for routing, dispatching and managing driver performance.


$186,200 for fall protection violations by a Florida roofing company

In two recent inspections, workers were seen on roofs without fall protection. The contractor received seven citations for safety violations, the latest in its history of exposing its workers to fall hazards. Since 2009, the company has been inspected by OSHA 13 times and received multiple citations for repeated and serious violations of residential fall protection standards.

Repeated violations were issued for not ensuring that workers on the ground wore head protection while cleaning up roofing debris thrown off the roof; not wearing eye protection, which exposed employees to eye injuries from flying debris or nails; and allowing workers to climb a 24-foot ladder while carrying a load in their hands, exposing them to fall hazards. Two serious violations were cited for failing to extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface and placing a ladder at an unsafe angle. Both violations exposed workers to fall hazards. 



$184,000 for repeat fall protection violations by a Florida roofing company

In September and October 2014, employees were seen working on roofs at two job sites without fall protection. The contractor received six citations. Since 2012, OSHA has inspected the company five times and issued multiple citations for repeated and serious violations of residential fall protection and other safety standards. OSHA issued two willful citations for letting employees work on roofs at heights of 8 and 12 feet without fall protection.

Repeat violations were issued for not ensuring that workers wore eye protection, which exposed them to eye injuries from flying debris or nails. Two other violations also were cited for unsafe wiring and not training workers how to use fall protection systems. 



$181,500 for repeat fall and scaffold hazards at a Pennsylvania masonry contractor

Inspectors responding to a tip from a passer-by found lack of fall protection for employees working at a height of up to 35 feet, inadequate access to working levels on scaffolding, and had no braces to prevent scaffolding from tipping or collapsing. The company was cited in September 2014 for the same violations, and in 2011 it was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program for multiple instances of repeated, high-gravity violations. Since then, the company has received 41 citations related to scaffolding. 


$119,000 for 200-foot fall hazards and silica exposure at a Florida construction company

OSHA issued 17 serious citations for exposing workers to falls of more than 200 feet due to scaffolding that was improperly assembled and secured to a building. Additionally, the employer did not properly inspect the scaffolding prior to each use and did not develop a written respiratory protection program for workers exposed to silica while restoring concrete. Other violations include failure to implement a hearing conservation program for workers exposed to high noise levels. 


$113,300 for repeat machine, fall and chemical hazards at a Wisconsin manufacturer

Two years after pledging to address health and safety violations in a corporate settlement agreement, the company was cited for four repeat, three serious and two other-than-serious violations after a recent inspection. Investigators found amputation and crushing hazards because proper safety mechanisms and procedures to power down machines during maintenance were not implemented. Workers were also expected to unclog a chute at a height of about 25 feet without adequate fall protection systems.

In addition, carcinogenic hexavalent chromium was found in eating areas. Employees were not trained on hazardous chemicals in their workplace and their potential health effects, and there were no procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services. Inspectors also noted blocked exits and powered industrial trucks left unattended while being filled with materials, exposing workers to struck-by hazards. 



$110,000 for willful and repeat violations following a blast at an Illinois manufacturing plant

Two temporary workers suffered first- and second-degree burns after their work site was ignited by a gas-powered forklift. OSHA investigation found that the company willfully failed to provide a suitable industrial vehicle for use in a hazardous location; did not train workers about hazardous workplace materials and lacked adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive chemicals. A repeat violation was cited for failing to train workers on required personal protective equipment. Four serious violation included failure to: provide and require the use of appropriate body protection; train employees on how to use powered industrial vehicles; eliminate trips, slip and fall hazards; and provide running water and operating toilet facilities.


$109,450 for fall hazards at a W. Virginia contractor

OSHA cited three willful violations for not providing fall protection for an employee exposed to a fall of up to 25 feet while working from a platform insecurely placed on the forks of a forklift, and for two employees exposed to a 30-foot fall while installing felt paper on the roof. Also, the employer did not ensure workers wore eye protection while using a pneumatic nail gun to lay the felt paper. One serious violation was noted for inappropriate use of a forklift to support a scaffold platform that employees used while working on a wall structure. The company faced the same violations after a 2006 inspection.


$108,000 for fire, fall, electrical, mechanical and other hazards at a New York manufacturer

Following employee complaints, OSHA inspectors found fire, laceration, amputation, crushing, electric shock, falling and hearing loss hazards caused by missing or ineffective safeguards, including: platforms and stairways without railings, open floor holes, improper use of flammable liquids and disposal of rags and waste, lack of fire extinguisher training, misused and mislabeled electrical equipment, out-of-date bloodborne exposure control plan and lack of emergency eyewashes. The plant was also cited for a repeat violation for not recording all work-related injuries and illnesses in its OSHA 300 injury and illness log.


$107,900 and SVEP following a fatal explosion at an Alabama steel company

Three men were opening and closing a malfunctioning valve on a furnace when it erupted. OSHA inspectors determined the explosion was caused by operating a high-pressure valve that contained oxygen and hydrated lime. The men were doing the work while the furnace was operating, as directed by the department's management.

OSHA issued a willful citation for not developing and using a procedure to control the hazardous energy to allow workers to operate the valves on the furnace while it is in operation. Seven serious citations were issued for not developing a procedure to prevent the furnace from releasing hazardous energy while workers performed maintenance; missing exit signs; an improperly installed exit gate; and not training workers to recognize hazardous conditions with the oxygen system. 



$102,180 for machine, fire and explosion hazards at a Wisconsin metal fabricator.

Responding to a complaint, inspectors found workers exposed to amputation hazards while fabricating metal products because safety mechanisms were not in place. Inspectors also found lift truck operators were not trained before operating equipment, flammable liquids were not stored properly, electrical equipment and lift trucks were not approved for areas with flammable atmospheres, and the company failed to install a required ventilation system in the storage room. In total, 12 serious violations were issued.

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