Case to watch: Administrative decision may allow enterprise-wide action
A recent administrative decision may allow OSHA to order employers to abate hazards across all their worksites, even ones it has not inspected for safety and health violations, significantly expanding its regulatory powers. In November 2014, Michigan-based Central Transport L.L.C. received citations for 14 violations at the freight hauler’s Billerica, Massachusetts, shipping terminal and OSHA asked the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) to issue an order compelling the employer to comply with the Powered Industrial Truck standard at all of its locations. Central Transport, which is contesting the citations, argued that the expansion was not legal and called on Administrative Law Judge Carol A. Baumerich to strike the claim.
However, the judge denied Central Transport’s motion by stating that a line in the OSH Act – “other appropriate relief” – provides the basis for DOL’s claim for enterprise-wide abatement to proceed to trial. The case is in the early stages and this decision allows it to move forward.
Online injury reporting now available
Rules require employers to report within eight hours any incident in which a worker is killed on the job. Serious injuries, which include in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye, must be reported within 24 hours.
Employers can now report fatalities and other serious workplace incidents via an online form.
Employers also may report incidents by contacting their local OSHA office or by calling OSHA’s 24-hour hotline at (800) 321-6742.
Word of caution: While it may seem easier and quicker to use this tool, it’s smart to remember that this becomes part of the permanent record and can be used against you in enforcement proceedings. It is important to take the time to understand what happened and why before committing it to writing.
Be alert to and delete any email with the Subject: “OSHA Regulations – Avoid being fined” or from firstname.lastname@example.org. Businesses are receiving fraudulent emails from an entity that claims to be the Department of Labor.
Compliance assistance resources
An update of compliance assistance resources issued in the past quarter has been released.
The update is divided into four sections:
- OSHA compliance assistance products
- Susan Harwood Training Grant Program materials
- Alliance Program materials
- NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program materials and other resources
The final rule addressing slip, trip and fall hazards has been withdrawn from the White House review process. Little explanation was provided, other than it can be resubmitted. Some experts suggest it would be a best practice to continue to attempt to comply with the proposed rule just in case it is re-sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and if compliance with the proposed rule is viewed favorably in assessing penalties or citations.
The draft of the final rule on silica was sent to OMB, one of the final steps in the process.
New webpage makes it easier for workers to access information on their rights
The Worker Rights page was redesigned for workers looking for information about their rights and what to do if they have concerns about safety and health at their workplace.
More secure training cards
In response to concerns about fraud, more durable and secure completion cards for trainers and students of the Outreach Training Program classes will be used. New cards will not be reissued to individuals who already have a paper copy, but individuals can purchase a new card by contacting the trainer who conducted their class. New cards will be issued only for in-person training sessions; students who complete courses online will continue to receive paper cards.
Recent fines and awards
- The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health dismissed all citations issued in April 2015 against Sea World’s orca safety and training program in San Diego, and will instead issue a special order based largely on SeaWorld’s existing safety protocol.
- Vitco Meats and temporary employment agency Volt Workforce Solutions were cited a combined $74,500 following a nearly fatal accident at a San Luis Obispo meat processing plant that left a worker with a crushed right hand, a broken arm, and nerve damage. Neither company had trained the employee to safely operate or clean the industrial meat grinder he was operating.
- A United Parcel Service Inc. delivery driver who received workers’ compensation for injuries caused by lifting a heavy box can’t pursue a negligence claim against the package’s sender, a California appellate court has ruled, even though the weight of the package was incorrect on the label.
- Atlanta food manufacturer, Schwan’s Global Supply Inc., was cited for repeated violations, including lack of safety procedures to prevent the unexpected start up of machinery during maintenance and servicing, improper guarding of machines, and not implementing safety procedures for ammonia refrigeration systems. The company agreed to correct the hazards and pay $100,000 in penalties.
- Frontier Ag Inc., a grain cooperative, was cited for exposing workers to fall and grain dust hazards at Quinter location. Proposed penalties: $65,000.
- A Framingham contractor with a history of safety violations, A S General Construction Inc., faces fines of $188,000 for exposing workers to fall hazards and has been placed in the Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP).
- A settlement agreement with Mass Bay Electrical Corp. commits the East Boston electrical contractor to extensive corrective action to prevent future deaths and injuries and establishes a training fund in the memory of two workers who were killed when a crane toppled.
- Lincoln-based Custom Contracting Inc. was cited for lack of training and safety gear in a worker’s fatal fall and fined $36.000.
- Litchfield, New Hampshire-based contractor Michael Cahoon, doing business as High & Dry Roofing was cited for exposing his employees to falls and other hazards, following an inspection initiated by a complaint. Proposed penalties are $152,460 and the company was placed in the SVEP.
- Cutchogue-based Peconic Recycling & Transfer Corp. was cited for one willful and 11 serious violations after three employees cleaning screens inside a cylindrical waste-sorting device called a trommel were seriously injured when another employee unexpectedly restarted the machine. Proposed penalties are $119,000.
- Brindi Trailer Sales and Services Inc. of Meridale, and owner Robert Urbina Brindi violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, by firing a driver who reported truck safety concerns and were ordered to pay $45,000 to the driver.
- Williamsport-based Susquehanna Supply Company Inc. was cited for two willful violations after a worker was killed in a trench collapse. The company faces $140,000 in fines and was placed in the SVEP.
- Dollar General, which has been cited multiple times nationwide, faces fines of $162,800 for safety violations at its Sherman store, including blocked and unmarked exit routes.
- Subfloor Systems Inc. of Hurst was inspected when a worker required hospitalization after falling off a balcony at a Fort Worth commercial construction site. Citations included lack of fall protection and failure to train workers in a language that each employee understands. Proposed penalties: $66,990.
- Inspected under the Process Safety Management Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, 11 serious and three violations were found at Rich Products Corp., a Brownsville frozen seafood distributor. Proposed fines are $155,000 and the company was placed in the SVEP.
- Alliance Laundry Systems, a commercial laundry equipment manufacturer, was cited for $51,000 following an inspection initiated by a report that a 50-year-old employee’s right hand was crushed when he came in contact with operating parts of a folding machine.
- A-1 Excavating Inc. of Bloomer again exposes workers to the dangers of trench cave-ins at a Middleton sewer-line site and faces fines of $69,000.
Detailed descriptions of the citations above and other OSHA citations can be found here.
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