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OSHA watch

Enforcement on rise

In an article in the Corporate Crime Reporter, Epstein Becker Partner Eric Conn On the Rise of OSHA Enforcement, Eric J. Conn, Head of Epstein Becker Green's national OSHA Practice Group, puts employers on notice with a strong argument that OSHA's priorities have shifted from compliance assistance and cooperative programs to the enforcement side.

According to Conn, enforcement of worker death and injury cases by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is up across the board. And criminal prosecutions of worker death cases are sure to follow.

"OSHA enforcement is up in every measurable metric, including number of inspections, number of inspections resulting in citations, number of citations per inspection, average penalty per violation, average penalty per inspection, number of significant cases - cases with $100,000 penalties or more, million dollar cases," Conn told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview. "Every measure you can think of - it is all up and it is all up somewhat significantly since 2009."

EPA, OSHA and ATF issue ammonium nitrate advisory

EPA, OSHA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a chemical advisory that provides information on the hazards of ammonium nitrate (AN) storage, handling and management. AN, which is widely used in fertilizers, was the material believed responsible for the massive explosion in West, Texas in April 2013 that killed 15 people and leveled dozens of buildings.

Silica NPRM published; comment period open

OSHA's notice of proposed rulemaking for crystalline silica was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 12, officially opening the rule's public comment period. Stakeholders have until Dec. 11 to submit written comments on the NPRM, Additionally, stakeholders wishing to participate in public hearings beginning March 4 must submit a notice of intent to appear by Nov. 12.

Recent fines and awards

Death of temporary worker leads to over $200,000 fine for manufacturing plant - California

Cal/OSHA cited Henkel Corporation $200,825 for multiple serious and willful violations following the April death of a 26-year-old temporary worker who became entangled with the exposed rotating shaft of a mixer while mixing industrial adhesive. Cal/OSHA's investigation resulted in citations for six serious violations, two of which are considered willful serious, as well as one general violation.

Los Angeles Engineering, Inc. cited for over $100,000 following fatal trench collapse - California

Cal/OSHA cited Covina-based Los Angeles Engineering, Inc. following a trench collapse, which killed one employee and severely injured another. The two pipe layers were checking the depth of the trench when an unshored wall caved in. The four citations included one general, two serious and a willful serious violation, totaling $100,635.


Contractor faces more than $336,000 in fines for willful, repeat and serious safety violations - Massachusetts

Repeat violator Twin Pines Construction Inc. of Everett has been cited for willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards at worksites in Plymouth and Reading. The wood-framing contractor faces a combined total of $336,200 in proposed fines.

The Plymouth inspection was initiated after a worker suffered broken ribs and leg injuries when an unbraced wooden roof truss system collapsed around him. The Reading inspection was opened the same day after OSHA received a complaint about possible safety hazards.

As a consequence of the alleged repeat offenses, Twin Pines Construction has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with federal workplace safety regulations.

Contractor cited for cave-in hazards and faces $34,400 in penalties - Massachusetts

Potentially fatal cave-in hazards at a Chelsea work site have resulted in $34,400 in proposed fines for Tufts Inc., a Medford contractor. Responding to a complaint, OSHA inspectors found that workers in the excavation not only lacked protection against a potential wall collapse, they were also without a ladder or other safe means of entry or egress.

Food storage facility faces fines of $132,800 - Nebraska

Nebraska Cold Storage Inc. has been cited for 14 safety violations and fined $132,800 for exposing workers to anhydrous ammonia at its Hastings facility. The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with federal workplace safety regulations.

Drain and Sewer Service Co. faces over $190,000 in fines - Nebraska

Taylor's Drain and Sewer Service has been cited for 10 safety violations, including two willful, after OSHA found that the company failed to protect workers from cave-ins during trenching operations at two separate jobs sites in Lincoln, leading to a serious injury. Proposed penalties total $194,000.

Contractor cited for serious safety violations following decking collapse -- New York

RNC Industries LLC, a construction contractor, was cited for repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards following a decking collapse that injured a worker at a construction site located in Manhattan. The Holtsville contractor faces a total of $58,410 in proposed penalties.

Seven Trade Fair Supermarkets cited for laceration, eye, exit hazards - New York

Seven Trade Fair Supermarkets stores in Queens, New York were cited for 40 violations of workplace safety standards. The local grocery store chain faces $128,000 in proposed fines following inspections in response to complaints.

2011 death of worker at plant leads to $1.33 million in criminal penalties and fines - South Dakota

Adams Thermal Systems Inc. has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with OSHA and the U.S. Attorney's Office to pay more than $1.33 million to resolve criminal penalties and OSHA fines levied as a result of the death of a worker in 2011 at the company's Canton plant. The company will pay the worker's surviving spouse $450,000, a criminal fine of $450,000 and the full OSHA fine of $435,000. OSHA's investigation found the worker was fatally crushed in a machine used to make radiator cores, after management instructed and authorized workers to bypass the manufacturer's barrier guard in order to adjust the machine to keep it running.

Packaging Corporation of America fined $185,560 after worker burned in fire - Wisconsin

Packaging Corporation of America has been cited for 30 safety violations, carrying proposed penalties of $185,560, after a worker was severely burned while attempting to relight a steam boiler in the plant. The incident took place at the Tomahawk pulp and paper mill. Seven of the 30 violations were repeat citations.

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