Articles | Cases

OSHA watch:

OSHA targets texting while driving on company business

An open letter to employers on the OSHA website, warns employers who require employees to text while driving or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job are violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In its news release, OSHA further states that it will investigate credible complaints promptly and issue citations and penalties to end the practice. OSHA explains that employers have the “responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace” – and this includes having a clear, unequivocal, and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving. Employers who have not already done so should set a policy on the use of electronic devices while driving and make sure employees understand that texting while driving is prohibited.

A webpage informs workers of their rights, and employers of their responsibility to provide safe workplaces, and offer best practices and policies on achieving safe workplaces in motor vehicles. Information and continual updates are available at

OSHA focuses on “green jobs”

Workers in the green industries may face hazards that are commonly known in workplaces -- such as falls, confined spaces, electrical, fire, and other similar hazards, but they also may be exposed to new hazards, which may not have been previously identified. For example, workers in the solar energy industry may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if adequate controls are not implemented.

A recent study by the National Fire Protection Association found that emergency medical responders needed more training when dealing with incidents involving electric or hybrid electric motor vehicles because there is a higher occurrence of electric shock, higher risk of unexpected vehicle movement and electric vehicle fires require different tactical approaches.

As the green movement has become increasingly popular, both OSHA and NIOSH have stepped up efforts to ensure that occupational safety and health are not overlooked in green jobs.

Recent fines

Florida construction company fined $41,200

Westport Stucco of South Florida was cited for failing to initiate and maintain a corporate safety program that complies with OSHA standards, failing to fully plank each working level of scaffolds, failing to equip scaffolds with guardrails, and using scaffolds that were not inspected by a competent person.

Illinois contractors fined more than $470,000 for exposing trench workers to cave-in hazards

OSHA issued a total of $473,000 in fines against two Illinois contractors who willfully exposed workers to trenching and excavation hazards. Cited in separate incidents were Di Paolo Co. in Glenview and Gerardi Sewer & Water Co. in Norridge.

Railroad ordered to pay whistleblower more than $80,000 in punitive damages

OSHA ordered Metro North Commuter Railroad Co., which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, to take corrective action and pay $80,500 in punitive damages to a worker at the company's New Haven, Conn., rail yard who was disciplined after filing a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.

Hazardous waste company fined more than $780,000 after processing plant explosion

OSHA cited the hazardous waste management processor, WRR Environmental Services Co., after an investigation stemming from a June 29, 2010, explosion and fire at the company's Eau Claire, Wis., facility. OSHA issued 15 citations and fined the company $787,000 for failing to fully develop and implement a process safety management program at the facility to prevent potentially catastrophic chemical fires and explosions.