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OSHA to police whistleblower claims under the Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") prohibits retaliation against employees for receiving cost sharing reductions or tax credits on a Health Insurance Exchange (or Marketplace), and it prohibits retaliation against employees who report alleged violations of Title 1 of the ACA. Employees who believe they have been retaliated against in violation of these rules can file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days of the alleged violation. Here is a link to OSHA's Fact Sheet providing more information about these provisions.

Severe violator enforcement program white paper questioned

While OSHA has recently released a white paper concluding that its controversial Severe Violator Enforcement Program is off to a good start, Eric J. Conn, Head of the OSHA Group at a prominent law firm, Epstein Becker & Green, has questioned the findings. Although the paper notes that the program has successfully identified recalcitrant employers who disregard their OSH Act obligations; and effectively allocates OSHA's follow-up enforcement resources, Conn argues that it:

NIOSH reports high rate of carpal tunnel syndrome in workers at poultry processing plant

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently published an interim Health Hazard Evaluation describing ergonomic risk factors, musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among workers at a poultry processing plant in South Carolina. Through evaluations and nerve conduction testing of more than 300 workers, NIOSH found that 42 percent of workers had carpal tunnel syndrome, and most workers at the plant reported pain, numbness and tingling, particularly in their hands and wrists. The report also contains a number of recommended actions to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

Recent fines and awards

Brake system manufacturer faces $55,505 in fines for power press, electrical, other hazards - Connecticut

Nucap U.S. Inc. was cited for 17 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its Watertown manufacturing plant. The manufacturer of motor vehicle brake systems faces $55,505 in proposed fines following inspections begun in February in response to a complaint.

Failure to provide proper personal protective equipment leads to proposed fine of $50,000 - Illinois

Advanced Strobe Products Inc. was cited with 16 health and safety violations carrying proposed fines of $50,785. OSHA investigated the company's facility in Harwood Heights after receipt of a complaint about a worker receiving emergency medical care for a leg burn due to an acid spill. The company failed to provide and ensure the use of proper personal protective equipment for the worker.

Whistleblower to receive back pay and damages - Massachusetts

An employee at True North's Devens Conference Center in Massachusetts was subjected to disciplinary action and then terminated in October 2011 after notifying superiors about safety concerns. The worker then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found merit to the complaint. True North has elected to settle the matter by taking corrective action.

Plumbing contractor cited after trench collapse leads to death - Nebraska

Witt Plumbing Inc. was cited for five safety violations, including two willful, after a worker died from injuries received when a trench collapsed at a job site in Hastings, Jan. 16. The worker was locating a sewage drainpipe at a home under construction when the unprotected trench collapsed. OSHA has proposed fines of $157,000 as a result of the incident and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Manufacturer faces almost $118,000 in additional fines for uncorrected and recurring hazard - New York

S.A. Baxter LLC, an architectural hardware manufacturer, faces a total of $117,920 in additional fines for failing to correct hazards previously cited at the Chester manufacturing plant.

Three contractors face over $465,000 in fines for electrocution and other hazards at Long Island work site - New York

Electrocution hazards accounted for the largest of the fines after inspectors from OSHA's Long Island Area Office found that workers for the three contractors performed their concrete work and crane operations close to energized 13,200-volt overhead power lines. Vordonia Contracting and Supplies Corp./Alma Realty Corp. of Long Island City was the general contractor on construction of a five-story concrete business and residential building where the violations were found. Masonry Services Inc., doing business as MSI, of Brooklyn, and North Eastern Precast LLC, of Fultonville, were the masonry and concrete subcontractors.

Helicopter contractor cited for exposing workers to chemical hazards - Pennsylvania

Carson Helicopters Inc. was cited for eight alleged serious violations, including exposing workers to hazards involving hexavalent chromium, at the company's facility in Perkasie. OSHA proposed penalties totaling $40,500 after a December 2012 inspection of the facility was launched because of a complaint.

Wisconsin's Gilman Cheese Corp. fined $126,700 after worker suffers amputation by unguarded machine - Wisconsin

Gilman Cheese Corp. was cited for 10 safety violations totaling $126,700 in proposed fines. A worker had two fingers amputated by an unguarded cheese packing and labeling machine at the Gilman factory. A January inspection was prompted by a referral and OSHA found that another worker suffered a similar amputation in January 2012. Because of the hazards and the willful violations cited, Gilman Cheese Corp. has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Foundry cited for exposing workers to coal tar pitch and formaldehyde - Wisconsin

Castalloy Inc. has been cited for 14 safety and health violations as the result of a follow-up inspection at the company's Waukesha foundry. An inspection found two repeat violations for allowing workers to be exposed to coal tar pitch volatiles in excess of permissible exposure limits and failing to provide medical surveillance for workers exposed to formaldehyde. OSHA has proposed fines totaling $83,160.

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