OSHA Watch & Important OSHA Trends

Important OSHA trends

  • Although OSHA is conducting slightly fewer inspections each year, the companies receiving citations are paying higher fines. The average cost increased from $1,897 in 2013 to $2,067 in 2014. The number of cases in which fines totaled more than $100,000 also increased.
  • There was almost a 25% increase in the number of companies in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, something every employer should try to avoid. Companies in the program are publicly chastised, experience follow-up inspections including ones at locations other than where the original violations occurred, and find it difficult to get out of the program. This is not limited to large companies, more than half have 25 or fewer employees.
  • More inspections result from employee complaints. In 2014, 27% of inspections resulted from complaints, compared to 20-24% in previous years.
  • Safety and health inspections involving temporary workers increased 322% in FY 2014. In FY 2014, OSHA conducted 283 inspections of worksites employing temporary workers, compared to 67 in 2013 and only 29 in 2012.
  • Whistleblower complaints are on the rise. In FY 2014 OSHA received 3,060 whistleblower complaints. That’s more than any year in the previous nine, and it’s a 3% increase over 2013. The bulk of the cases were safety-related, including 1,729 (57%) filed under the OSH Act’s anti-retaliation clause, Section 11(c). According to safetynewsalert.com, in 2014, determinations were made in 3,271 cases. Of those:
    • 51% (1,652) were dismissed
    • 22% (710) were withdrawn by the employee
    • 13% (441) were settled by the employee and employer
    • 9% (305) were categorized as “other settled,” which OSHA defines as a settlement which occurred as a result of referring the case to another authority
    • 3% (243) were categorized as “kicked out,” which OSHA defines as an action going before a U.S. district court
    • 2% (64) were found to have merit

    OSHA also released these stats for the period from 2005-2014:

    • 58% were dismissed
    • 16% were withdrawn by the employee
    • 15% were settled
    • 7% were “settled other”
    • 2% were found to have merit, and
    • 1% was “kicked out

OSHA publications accessible on smartphones and tablets; Safety and Health Information Bulletins available

Dozens of electronic publications can now be downloaded at no cost from OSHA’s Publications Web page. To order publications, contact OSHA’s Publications Office at 202-693-1888. Safety and Health Information Bulletins (SHIBs) are also now accessible. The documents focus on various topics such as blood borne pathogens, confined spaces, construction operations, and health and safety hazards.

Largest punitive damages in OSHA history for retaliating against a worker who suffered on-the-job injury

Metro-North’s actions against an injured worker resulted in the issuance of maximum penalties, the largest punitive damages ever in a worker retaliation case under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. A recent investigation revealed that the worker, who is employed as a coach cleaner for the commuter rail carrier, was retaliated against after reporting a knee injury he suffered on the job. Other employees who suffered job-related injuries did not report them out of fear of reprisal. Proposed penalties include $250,000 in punitive damages and $10,000 in compensatory damages and attorney fees.

Recent fines and awards

Employers face more than $110K in fines for failing to provide fall protection – Massachusetts

Four contractors exposed workers to potentially fatal falls at an Easthampton, Massachusetts, renovation project. Inspectors visited the work site in response to a complaint. Fines totaled $110,670, with the project’s general contractor, James J. Welch & Co. Inc., of Salem, cited for the majority of the violations.

Concrete manufacturer faces $234,000 in fines and temporary agency also cited – New Hampshire

In response to a worker complaint, an investigation of Concrete Systems Inc. in Hudson, N.H., found workers in danger of falling, being crushed and exposed to dangerous noise levels because required safeguards were not implemented. The company was cited with 26 willful, serious and other violations, and issued proposed fines of $230,400. A $7,000 proposed fine was also issued to Marathon Staffing Services Inc. for failing to provide audiograms to temporary workers who were exposed to excessive noise levels at CSI.

Tekton Construction Co. cited for willful and serious violations related to fatal trench collapse – North Carolina

Two workers were in an unprotected trench reconnecting drainpipes at Fort Bragg, when, without warning, the walls collapsed. While one worker escaped, the other was killed. Willful citations were issued to Tekton for not providing cave-in protection to employees working in a trench and not providing safe means to enter and exit the trench. The company faces $123,200 in proposed penalties and placement in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its obligations to provide a safe workplace for employees.

‘Severe violator’ Domestic Casting endangers workers by ignoring prior OSHA violations at iron foundry – Pennsylvania

For the eighth time since 2011, Domestic Casting’s iron foundry has been investigated, cited, and fined for not protecting its employees from safety and health hazards. The three most recent inspections at the Shippensburg, Pa., facility found 27 total violations, resulting in $152,912 in fines for many dangers, including fall, machine guarding and sling hazards. The company has been in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program since August 2013.

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom fail to protect young workers from health hazards and illness – Pennsylvania

Seasonally-employed workers, mostly teen employees, hired as outdoor and food stand staff at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, were exposed to heat hazards during their summer employment, according to an investigation. Cedar Fair LP, operators of the Allentown amusement park, was cited and faces a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty permitted for a serious violation. An additional record-keeping violation carries a $2,000 penalty. The investigation was in response to a complaint alleging that a teen worker sustained burns upon collapsing near a fryer in a food stand.

Davey Tree Expert Co. placed in Severe Violator Enforcement Program for vehicle rollover hazard leading to fatal injury of tree trimmer – Pennsylvania

A 21-year-old tree trimmer employed by The Davey Tree Expert Co. was fatally injured after a utility task vehicle ran over him at a Claysburg work site. An investigation found that the company had willfully put the employee and others at risk by using a UTV on a slope exceeding the 15-degree limit permitted by the UTV manufacturer. As a result, the company was cited for one willful violation under the general duty clause, was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program and faces a $70,000 penalty.

Roofing company faces over $70,000 in fines for exposing workers to falls -Wisconsin

Diaz Roofing LLC of Edgerton, Wisconsin allowed four employees to reshingle a residential rooftop without required fall protection, according to an investigation. The roofing company was cited for one willful and one serious safety violation with proposed penalties of $73,080. The company has been cited previously 11 times for lack of fall protection.

Detailed descriptions of the citations above and other OSHA citations can be found here.

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Author | Speaker | Certified Risk Manager | Certified Work Comp Advisor

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