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May 7, 2015

Top OSHA Fines in April Total $2.8 Million

OSHA released information on 17 significant fines (over $100,000) in April, 2015. Fines totaled nearly $2.8 million, compared to $3.1 million in March. The top 5 fines contributed almost half of the total. Common citations included fall hazards, machine guarding and electrical hazards. Here are some details of the cases. Most are still pending final decisions.

$490,000 for asbestos hazards at a Pennsylvania environmental services company

asbestos hazardWorkers removing thermal pipe insulation at an unoccupied residence were exposed to asbestos. OSHA cited seven willful violations, including allowing workers to remove asbestos improperly; failing to make sure their employees' respirators fit correctly; and not decontaminating employees and their clothing before leaving the work site.

OSHA requires employers to treat thermal system insulation and surfacing material found in buildings constructed before and in 1980 as asbestos, unless they can prove that the material is free of asbestos. In this inspection, the building was built in 1928, and the company made no attempt to test the removed materials. Read the citations here (pdf). 

$294,500 for willful and repeat violations after 3 roofers fall from a broken scaffold in Massachusetts

Three roofing workers were hospitalized after a two-story fall from a scaffold platform that broke beneath them. The incident occurred, inspectors said, because a spruce plank used as the platform could not support the workers' weight, was not graded for scaffold use, and the plank's invoice was clearly marked "not for scaffold use."

The incident occurred as the employees performed roofing work on a ladder-jack scaffold. OSHA identified additional hazards, including scaffold platforms that exceeded the maximum allowable height of 20 feet, ladders that did not extend at least three feet above landings and not ensuring employees were using fall protection. Other hazards encompassed defective or damaged scaffold components, missing or inadequate scaffold anchorage and failure to train employees in scaffold erection and safety. These conditions resulted in the company being cited for three willful, one repeat and five serious violations. See the citations here (pdf). 

$199,000 following fall-related deaths at a Michigan painting company

Two men were seven stories above ground on an electric two-point scaffold, painting a 123-foot-tall water tower when the scaffold's hoist failed, and a nylon suspension rope broke. As the scaffold collapsed, the two men fell to their deaths. Investigation found that required equipment to stop their falls might have saved workers. Inspectors identified 17 serious safety violations at the Ohio worksite. An additional 13 serious violations were found at a second site.

OSHA inspectors also found that the scaffolds in use were not designed by a competent person; U-bolts were not installed correctly; and damaged wire ropes, slings, electrical cords and other faulty equipment were in use. The company also did not inspect rigging equipment and scaffolds before use or do site inspections, and it did not train workers about fall protection equipment and standards. Inspectors also discovered that vertical lifelines, support lines and suspension points were attached to the same anchor point, and the company failed to protect lines from sharp edges and abrasion. View current citations for the two locations here and here (pdf).

$179,388 and SVEP for repeat fall and electrical hazards at a Georgia post manufacturer

electrical current keep awayAfter receiving a complaint alleging safety hazards, OSHA inspectors investigated and issued 14 citations, including eight repeat violations for: not keeping the floors and walkways free of debris, exposing workers to falls due to missing guardrails, as well as shock and burn hazards from uncovered wiring in junction boxes and electrical panels, and not providing workers with forklift training. The employer also was cited for not training employees to operate fire extinguishers and exposing workers to unguarded machine parts while the machines were in operation. 

Since 2010, the company has received 47 citations for safety hazards at the facility. The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. View citations here (pdf).

$171,000 for amputation and other hazards at a Chicago industrial manufacturer

Triggered by an employee complaint, an October OSHA inspection resulted in citations for one willful and 20 serious safety and health violations, including exposing workers to struck-by hazards because the company used damaged crane slings to carry 3,000-pound cylinders. Investigators saw workers endangered by machine hazards during the manufacturing process. Employees were exposed to unguarded press brakes, resulting in one willful violation. 

The company did not remove damaged crane slings and powered industrial vehicles from use; exposed workers to fall hazards because railings were not installed on open stairs and working surfaces; and failed to develop machine-specific procedures for controlling unintentional machine operation during service and maintenance, including affixing locking devices. Additionally, exit routes were blocked and exit doors were locked. Electrical safety hazards and lack of training were also noted. View the current citations (pdf). 

$165,200 for 50 safety and health violations at a Texas foundry

An inspection was initiated under the National Emphasis Program on Primary Metals to identify and reduce exposures to harmful chemical and physical health hazards. OSHA found workers were exposed to hearing loss, falls and other dangers, and issued 32 serious safety violations and 18 serious health violations, including failure to:

  • Provide guardrails or personal fall arrest systems for work on elevated locations
  • Ensure forklift man basket had safe design and was properly attached
  • Provide machine guarding for lathes, saws, sander, conveyors and other machinery
  • Guard transmission belts and pulleys on multiple machines
  • Ensure arc welding cables were undamaged
  • Implement administrative or engineering controls when noise levels exceed 100 decibels
  • Ensure flammable liquids were stored in tanks or closed containers
  • Provide Hazard Communication training on methylene chloride and hexavalent chromium.

$160,200 for 31 chlorine gas and other hazards at a Kansas aluminum foundry

Chlorine Gas
Unsafe use of chlorine gas was discovered by OSHA after a complaint prompted an inspection. Investigators found employees endangered by permit-required confined space hazards while working in foundry furnaces. OSHA issued 31 serious health and safety citations, including failure to train workers on hazardous chemicals used at the foundry; store oxygen and fuel-gas cylinders properly, and protect workers from dangerous machine parts. The agency also found forklifts with defects in use. The company also failed to conduct audiometric testing; ensure hearing protection was worn; and to train employees on noise hazards. 

$130,900 for willful and serious forklift hazards at an Ohio grocery

Acting on a complaint, OSHA inspectors found two willful safety violations as  the company failed to remove damaged powered industrial trucks from service and to examine forklifts after each shift to report and correct defects. Two serious citations were issued for failing to train forklift operators and not properly repairing a pallet jack charger.

$124,780 for repeat fall hazards at an Illinois roofing and construction company

After receiving a complaint alleging workers were exposed to fall hazards, OSHA investigated and issued two willful and four serious violations for exposing workers to falls and other hazards while re-roofing an existing residence. Willful citations were cited for exposing workers to fall hazards of about  22 feet without fall protection, and failing to extend a ladder at least three feet above the landing to provide safe roof access.

Four serious violations involve allowing employees to perform roofing work in close proximity to energized power lines, lack of personal protective equipment and allowing employees to carry loads of plywood and other roofing materials while climbing ladders. The company has been cited multiple times since 2008 for fall safety violations. 

$116,000 for blocked exits at Texas location of a national retailer

Emergency exit do not block
Piled boxes at dangerous heights and blocked exit routes were two of the hazards found at a Houston retailer. The hazards, both of which led to repeated citations. The inspection followed a complaint that alleged blocked exits in the workplace. Two repeat violations were cited for failure to ensure that exit doors were kept clear and unobstructed and that boxes were stored securely. Four serious violations were issued for failing to clearly mark doorways along exit routes; failing to place valve protection caps on compressed helium cylinders; not training workers on fire extinguisher use; and not providing clear access to the breaker box. 

$115,500 and SVEP following maintenance-related injury at a Georgia manufacturing plant

A worker suffered a broken left wrist and severe lacerations after coming into contact with moving parts of an assembly  machine. The worker was removing glue from the rails of the machine when she dropped her putty knife. While attempting to retrieve it, she made contact with moving machine parts that were not shut down or turned off properly for maintenance and service. OSHA issued two repeat citations for failure to ensure workers were protected from moving machine parts during service or maintenance and not providing protective guards on equipment to prevent workers from being hit-by or caught between moving machine parts. One serious violation was cited for exposing workers to being hit-by and caught-in machines because the employer did not ensure that proper written procedures were followed while employees serviced and maintained equipment. 

$115,000 for willful, serious safety violations following the death of a welder in Ohio

After a 33-year-old maintenance worker was electrocuted, an OSHA fatality investigation found the company failed to protect the welder from an energized electrical line while he was cutting a metal roof off an industrial transformer substation at the facility. The 10-year employee attempted to enter the substation by climbing over a concrete wall and fence on the side of the transformer substation and his foot touched the electrical line, which was still energized, and was electrocuted. OSHA issued one willful and 11 serious safety violations involving electrical safe work practices.

$105,000 for 48 fire, explosion and other hazards at a New York manufacturer

Explosive materials
Responding to complaints, OSHA inspectors identified a large number of violations. The company lacked basic safety and health programs to prevent fires, explosions or an uncontrolled release of highly hazardous chemicals, including formaldehyde..." said OSHA. Inspectors found the presence of combustible resin dust; flammable liquids improperly stored and transferred; no audible fire alarm and fire-suppression system; and locked and obstructed exit routes. All of these violations increased the risk of employees being killed, injured or unable to escape from a fire or explosion.

$103,800 for chemical and fire hazards at New York soap and shampoo manufacturer

Acting on employee complaints, inspectors found workers exposed to chemical and fire hazards and blocked emergency exit routes. The company was cited for three repeat and six serious violations, including flammable liquids not stored or used properly; employees with respirators who were not trained or checked medically; and containers with hazardous chemicals not labeled correctly. In addition, inspectors found workers without needed eye and face protection and emergency eyewash stations; employees not trained in the use of dangerous chemicals; and forklift operators who did not receive refresher training.

$103,000 for repeat laceration and amputation hazards at an Illinois siding plant

Following a complaint, OSHA identified one repeat and five serious safety violations related to safety guards on large industrial machines that workers use to form and cut steel and aluminum. Similar violations were found in 2011 2012. Workers were also in danger of amputation because machines were not shut down properly before repair and maintenance, and were operated without proper safety devices. 

$101,200 for trench collapse hazards at a Colorado utility company

Do not enter trench until properly shored
OSHA conducted inspections under the National Emphasis Program on Trenches. OSHA cited the company for one willful violation for failing to protect workers from cave-ins. OSHA also issued one serious violation for placing workers in a trench more than 4 feet deep without a safe exit, and one willful violation for failing to protect workers from cave-ins.

$100,000 for repeat retaliation against an injured worker at a California railroad

Investigators established that the company violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against an employee for reporting to his supervisors that he was hurt while lifting materials and equipment. The company initially charged the employee with causing his own injury by not using proper ergonomic and safety techniques, and suspended him without pay for five days. The company later expunged the employee's record and paid him for the day he attended the investigation hearing and the five days of his suspension. Since the company voluntarily corrected the retaliation, OSHA assessed $50,000 in punitive damages. OSHA recently reported that the company has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide since 2001.

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