What have OSHA’s compliance officers been up to lately? Take a look at some of the more significant enforcement cases from the past several months to find out. From the usual suspects like fall hazards and excavations to some less typical cases, recent enforcement activity illustrates the importance of a strong safety and health program for employers of all types and sizes.
Fall Hazards Continue to Bring Citations
Fall protection in construction has been OSHA’s most violated standard for many years, and roofing contractors receive approximately half of all the citations issued under this standard. As the cases below illustrate, these patterns show no sign of changing any time soon:
- An Ohio roofing contractor was cited with one willful violation and two serious violations for exposing workers to fall hazards while they installed shingles on a sloped roof at a Cincinnati worksite. According to OSHA, the employer failed to provide and install a fall protection system and failed to have a competent person inspect the worksite daily. The company has been cited for fall protection violations five times since 2014.
Penalty: $159,118 fine
- OSHA cited an Illinois roofing contractor for exposing employees to fall hazards at a commercial building site. The company received five serious violations, one willful violation, and five repeat violations for failing to provide head, eye, face, and fall protection; improper use of warning lines during low-sloped roof construction; lack of guards on belts and pulleys; unsafe use of ladders; and failing to designate a safety monitor. According to OSHA, employees were exposed to fall hazards of more than 17 ft.
Penalty: $220,249 fine
- OSHA cited two Florida construction contractors for failing to protect employees from fall hazards after an employee was fatally injured after falling from an elevated work platform. Inspectors determined that workers at the site were exposed to fall, struck-by, and impalement hazards. The employers were cited for failing to provide fall protection, failing to conduct regular inspections of the worksite, and permitting workers to use an unsecured extension ladder.
Penalty: $82,327 fine
Emphasis on Excavation Hazards
A National Emphasis Program launched in 2018 has focused enforcement and compliance assistance resources on trenching and excavation hazards. Recent enforcement cases highlight the results of these efforts:
- OSHA opened an investigation at a residential construction site in Missouri after inspectors observed employees working in an inadequately protected trench. The company was cited with one willful violation and two serious violations for failing to protect employees from cave-in hazards. According to OSHA, the company exposed employees to struck-by and engulfment hazards by failing to use a protective system in an excavation and failed to ensure that a competent person conducted daily inspections before allowing employees to enter a trench.
Penalty: $143,206 fine
- After observing three employees working in an unprotected 13-foot-deep trench in Colorado, OSHA inspectors asked them to exit the trench. Moments after their exit, one of the trench’s walls collapsed. OSHA cited the utility that employed the workers with one willful violation and two serious violations for failing to protect employees from cave-in hazards, failing to keep the spoil pile at least 2 ft back from the edge of the excavation, and allowing employees to work beneath an excavator bucket. “The inspectors’ quick action removed workers from what could have been a tragic event,” said David Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Englewood.
Penalty: $92,819 fine
- OSHA cited a plumbing contractor with two repeat violations for exposing employees to multiple trenching and excavation hazards following an employee fatality. The employee suffered fatal injuries in a trench collapse at a residential construction site in Bellbrook, Ohio. The company was cited for not having a competent individual inspect the trench before allowing employees to enter and for failing to install an adequate protective system to prevent the trench collapse. OSHA cited the company for similar violations in 2017 and 2018. The company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Penalty: $145,860 fine
Discount Retailers Continue to Face Fines
Discount retailers have repeatedly come under OSHA’s scrutiny over the past few years, with a number of six-figure fines for obstructed exit routes, unsafe storage practices, and other hazards. As these cases illustrate, that trend shows no sign of abating:
- A discount retail chain location in Florida was cited with a repeat violation for exposing employees to struck-by, trip, and fall hazards resulting from unstable merchandise stacked over 7 feet (ft) high in the path of an emergency exit. The employer was previously cited for a similar violation in September 2018. In addition, the employer permitted boxed merchandise and a flat wheeled platform to narrow an emergency exit route below the required 28-inch minimum width.
Penalty: $104,192 fine
- In September, a discount retailer in New Hampshire received repeat and serious violations for ineffective sanitation and respiratory protection. The store was cited for failing to institute an effective extermination program and keep work areas free of vermin feces and urine, as well as failing to provide respirator training, fit testing, and medical evaluations for employees required to use respirators while cleaning up vermin waste. OSHA cited the company for the same hazards in March 2019.
- After employees at four Idaho locations of a discount retailer were found to be exposed to unsafe storage of merchandise and blocked walkways and exit routes, OSHA issued eight repeat and two serious safety violations. At the four stores, inspectors found boxes stacked improperly, often with heavier boxes on top of lighter ones, and blocked aisles and exit routes. OSHA learned that falling boxes had injured employees at multiple stores; in one store, while an inspector shot video of storage conditions, a stack of boxes fell and nearly injured an employee. In addition to the improper storage and blocked aisles and exit routes, OSHA cited the company for improper use of a ladder, blocked electrical panels, and fall hazards.
Penalty: $898,682 fine
Rhinoceroses and Film Production: A Look at Two Unusual Cases
OSHA has a reputation for citing the same hazards in the same industries year in and year out. But that doesn’t mean the agency never deals with more…unusual dangers. These cases serve to remind employers that just because a hazard isn’t governed by a specific regulation, that doesn’t negate the duty to assess risks and provide appropriate safeguards to protect employees.
- A Florida zoo was cited with one serious violation and one other-than-serious violation after a zookeeper required hospitalization after being seriously injured by a rhinoceros. OSHA cited the zoo under the General Duty Clause for failing to protect workers from recognized hazards associated with training and feeding rhinoceroses and under its injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting requirements for not notifying OSHA of the employee’s hospitalization within 24 hours as required. According to OSHA, employees caring for, training, and feeding rhinoceroses were exposed to struck-by hazards because the employer did not provide safety measures to limit the rhinoceros’s movement inside the rhinoceros training chute.
Penalty: $14,661 fine
- OSHA cited a film production company after two employees were injured while filming a movie in Georgia. One employee suffered injuries that required hospitalization, and another suffered minor injuries during the filming of a simulated motorcycle explosion. The company was cited with a serious violation for failing to require employees to use proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
Penalty: $9,472 fine
|Emily Scace is Senior Editor, Safety, for Safety.BLR.com®. Join her webcast, OSHA’s Top 10 Violations: Latest Trends and Tips for Compliance, on Thursday, November 7, 2019, for an overview of the standards on OSHA’s latest Top 10 Violations list, the steps you can take to prevent citations, and insight into current OSHA enforcement trends. This sponsored webinar is free—register today!|