OSHA watch

Retaliation rules on reporting injuries into effect August 10

Included in the new electronic reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses rule is the requirement that employers must establish “a reasonable procedure” for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly and accurately. Effective August 10, the rule prohibits employers from deterring or discouraging a reasonable employee from accurately reporting a workplace injury or illness. The rule also prohibits any retaliation for reporting an injury or illness. Under this new reporting standard, employer policies that request or require post-accident drug or alcohol testing may now face scrutiny by OSHA because, the agency claims, post-incident testing deters injury reporting.

 

Fine increases start August 1 and employers may also face retroactive fines

Starting August 1, penalties will increase to reflect the change in the consumer price index since the last pre-1996 update. Maximum fines can increase up to 78%, meaning that the existing $70,000 cap for repeat and willful violations could increase to $124,709, while the top fines for serious and other-than-serious violations could rise to $12,471 from the current $7,000 maximum. Employers inspected before the Aug. 1 effective date, but receiving citations after that date, will be subject to the higher penalties. It can take up to six months after the start of an inspection to issue citations and propose penalties, so employers being investigated as far back as Feb. 1 could face the higher fines.

 

Annual campaign launched to help outdoor workers beat the heat

In launching the campaign, a representative noted that new workers who have not been acclimated to the heat are particularly vulnerable and the majority of recent heat-related deaths investigated by the agency involved workers who were on the job for three days or less. The campaign informs employers and employees about the dangers of working in hot weather, includes illustrations of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, provides safety tips and training materials, and links to an updated safety phone app. In 2014, heat-related illnesses sickened more than 2,600 workers and caused 18 fatalities.

 

New pilot program targeting severe violators of whistleblower rights launched in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa

The Whistleblower-Severe Violator Enforcement Program will focus on employers that engage in egregious behavior and blatant retaliation against workers who report unsafe working conditions and violations of the law. Criteria for inclusion on the Whistleblower-Severe Violator Enforcement Program log will include:

  • All significant whistleblower cases.
  • Cases deemed worthy of either litigation or the issuance of merit findings from the Secretary of Labor in connection with egregious citations, a fatality, or a rate-based incentive program for work-related injuries.
  • A merit whistleblower case where the employer is already on the enforcement SVEP log
  • A company with three or more merit whistleblower cases within the past three years.

After three years, a company may petition the regional administrator for a follow-up visit and removal from the program.

 

New fact sheet on lightning

Lightning is a frequently overlooked occupational hazard, according to a new fact sheet issued jointly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It provides information about lightning hazards, what should be included in emergency action plans, and protective measures that can be taken to ensure workers’ safety.

 

Recent fines and awards

Georgia

  • U.S. Pipe Fabrication LLC of Gainesville faces nearly $76,000 in fines for three repeated, three serious and one other-than-serious safety and health violations related to energy control procedures, unguarded equipment and inadequate written respiratory program among others.
  • Reich Installation Services of Forest Park was issued two willful and two serious safety citations for failure to inspect the rail supporting a scaffold system nearly 80 feet off the ground for visible defects after a 27-year-old laborer fell to his death at a Kroger distribution center. Proposed penalties total $121,800.
  • Evergreen Nursery of Statham was cited for 18 serious violations after an overturned forklift crushes a worker who was not wearing a seatbelt. Proposed penalties are $46,900.
  • Savannah-based Arboris L.L.C. was cited for violating process safety management procedures for the handling of hazardous materials and lack of certain emergency shutdown procedures following a fire at its Newark, Ohio facility. The food addictive manufacturer faces $180,180 in fines.

Missouri

  • In less than one month, two workers at a California-owned Ajinomoto Windsor Inc. facility in Piedmont suffered amputation injuries. The company faces eight serious and three other-than-serious safety violations and $140,000 in penalties, for lack of proper safety guards and more.
  • Americold Logistics of Carthage received nine serious safety violations for lack of proper procedures for use of potentially dangerous ammonia. Proposed penalties: $54,800.

Nebraska

  • Five companies face fines of $115,000 after inspectors observed multiple safety hazards at a Lincoln construction site. While East Framing Inc. of Grimesland, North Carolina faces the largest fine ($65,450), South Georgia Framers, America’s Best Siding of Fort Collins, Colorado, Aspen Heights, and ProCon Construction Services LLC also were cited.
  • Clau Chin Construction LLC, the employer, and Larry Kessler Construction LCC, the project’s contractor, were cited with three safety violations after a trench collapse kills a 61-year-old plumber in Alliance. Proposed fines: $33,000 and $21,000 respectively.

New York

  • Yeshiva Kehilath Yakov was cited for 21 serious violations related to potentially fatal electrical and fall hazards at a Williamsburg building site. Proposed penalties: $49,200.
  • Wegman’s Food Market’s Rochester bakery faces $140,000 in fines for repeat safety violations after an operating conveyor injures employee’s arm.
  • Jamestown MVP LLC of Falconer, dba MVP Plastics, a manufacturer of disposable plates and bowls, was cited for failing to correct fall hazards and allowing recurring electrical hazard. Proposed penalties: $87,520.
  • Alstom Transportation Inc., a leading rail equipment manufacturer, was cited for 17 serious violations and fined $105,000 for exposing workers to several cancer-causing chemicals and other hazards.

Pennsylvania

  • Despite an extensive violation history (56 failed inspections nationwide), Dollar General had sealed exits and electrical hazards at its Shamokin store. Proposed penalties: $70,000.
  • PhytogenX Inc., a cosmetic manufacturer in Morgantown, faces fines of $285,300 after an inspection initiated by an employee complaint. The inspection found flammable chemicals caused fire hazards and unguarded machinery caused the amputation of a worker’s fingertip.
  • Dent Wizard is facing $51,000 in penalties for failing to protect workers from toxic compounds at its Manheim location, as well as other violations. The inspection was initiated in response to a complaint.
  • BC Stucco and Stone of Upper Darby was fined $93,000 after a second inspection revealed continuing scaffolding dangers. The company was cited for one serious and three willful violations.

Texas

  • Fort Worth steel fabricator, K-T Galvanizing Company Inc. faces penalties of $53,200 for 13 serious violations, including lack of a hearing conservation program, hazard communication program, and forklift and electrical violations.
  • MillerCoors Fort Worth brewery faces $77,000 in penalties, including one willful violation for an unguarded lathe that led to employee finger amputation.
  • Whistleblower action: Two Houston companies, Eustis Cable Enterprises and Continuum Integrated Health Services, that allegedly fired employees who reported workplace safety concerns have been sued.

Wisconsin

  • Town City Construction of Eau Claire was cited for allowing roofers to work on a residential roof without safety harnesses and ignoring previous violations. This was the sixth failed inspection in six years and the company faces $70,000 in fines.
  • Ashley Furniture of Arcadia, the nation’s largest retailer of home furnishings, reached a comprehensive agreement to abate all hazards and implement safeguards to prevent future injuries. The company will correct all cited violations and will pay penalties of $1.75 million.
  • Motor Castings Company of West Allis was cited for machine hazards and exposing workers to silica after a machine part crushes an employee’s hand. Proposed penalties: $62,370.

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

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on slashing Workers’ Compensation Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

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