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Category: Safety Products & Services
Volume: 40
Issue: 3
Article No.: 5713

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SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Does OSHA Cite Employers Equally?

The simple answer is no. The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) does not cite employers equally. If you view their website you will see that in many ways OSHA picks on smaller employers and levies higher penalties while big well-known companies get away with either no penalties or very low penalties for the same hazardous conditions. Does this seem fair to you? Even the Senate had a hearing and wrote a document on these major company violators but the government still grants them millions of dollars in contracts while all along the government knows that these companies still violate the law and seriously injure or even kill their workers.

Two places to view OSHA inspection data and new releases are: www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.html and www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases

In many cases you will see that OSHA cited a small employer hundreds of thousands of dollars for the same type of hazards that they found in larger companies who also get government contracts. Most of the time OSHA inspects these large employers and never finds hazards.

For example, the folloing were found on the OSHA website which is the public domain and this information is open to the public for viewing. So our news publication is not singling out a specific employer.

OSHA cited American Excelsior Company – based in Norwalk, Ohio – for machine guarding hazards after an employee required hospitalization when he suffered a crushed arm. Proposed penalties total $213,411.

OSHA investigators determined that the employee sustained injuries when the machine began operating while he removed product build-up. OSHA cited the company, which manufactures biodegradable erosion control blankets, for failing to develop or implement energy control procedures to prevent unintentional machine start-up during maintenance, and train employees in energy control procedures. American Excelsior Company received citations for similar violations at its Rice Lake, Wisconsin, plant in 2017. OSHA has also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. “This employer failed to implement safety procedures to prevent known hazards," said OSHA Toledo Area Office Director Kimberly Nelson. "This injury could have been avoided if machine locking devices had been installed."

This next example is the Nestle Corporation Bloomington, Illinois who had over 265 machines that were not guarded and the employer did not follow proper lockout and tagout and OSHA procedures was cited for only $20,000 total for both of these issues. This same company stated in written documents that they averaged 33 irreversible injuries and one fatality to machinery that was not properly guarded.

OSHA has cited Remington Arms Company LLC – based in Madison, North Carolina – for 27 violations of workplace safety and health standards after an employee’s fingertip was amputated while working on a broaching machine at its Ilion, New York, manufacturing plant. The arms manufacturer faces $210,132 in penalties.

OSHA inspectors found numerous safety violations, including lack of machine guarding and exposures to electrical, chemical, ladder, tripping, crushing, and struck-by hazards. The company was also cited for several health violations, including failing to conduct atmospheric testing in confined spaces, monitor lead exposure levels, implement a hearing conservation program, provide first-aid training and appropriate protective clothing for employees working with corrosive chemicals, protect employees from exposure to cadmium, and label hazardous chemicals containers.

"The violations identified exposed employees to serious and potentially life-threatening injuries," said OSHA Syracuse Area Director Jeffrey Prebish. "Employers can minimize workplace dangers by conducting required job hazard analyses." This is the same OSHA that let the big company Nestle off the hook and a company that has the same willful type hazards and have higher amputation rates then these other companies.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $1,326,367 to Dowa THT America Inc. – a metal heat treatment company based in Bowling Green, Ohio – after the company exposed employees to atmospheric, thermal, electrical, and mechanical hazards as they performed maintenance inside heattreating furnaces. In addition to the penalties, OSHA placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA cited the company for 25 willful, serious, and other-thanserious violations for hazards related to confined spaces, falls, machine guarding, respiratory protection, chemical exposures, and electrical equipment. The company also failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment, and train their employees on hazards in the facility.

“The violations identified exposed employees to serious, and potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Employers have a legal obligation to assess their workplaces for hazards, and establish appropriate safety and health programs to protect their workers.”

Do not take the chance if your machinery is not safeguarded. You do not know if you have hazards unless you conduct an audit. In addition you need to train your employees based on your equipment’s operators manuals.

In closing I wanted you to know that OSHA does not treat employers equally. You may know I used to work for federal OSHA as a compliance officer and machine guarding and Lockout and Tagout are high on their list of citations. If I can be of any help to your company, please contact me.

For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.

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