Refusal to Cooperate With OSHA Leads to Federal Criminal Contempt

For what is believed to be the first time in OSHA history, a company recently was found in criminal contempt for refusal to comply with a warrant obtained by OSHA inspectors to conduct an inspection. A Missouri foundry, its owner, and three representatives of an independent safety-consulting company were found in criminal contempt by a federal judge for refusing access to the site by OSHA inspectors. The U.S. District Court in Kansas City ordered Martin Foundry Co., Inc., owner Darrell Stone, and representatives of Compliance Professionals, Inc. to jointly pay $10,778 to reimburse departmental costs.  In addition, Martin Foundry and Darrell Stone were fined $1,000 for their failure to cooperate. Each of the three consultants were fined $2,000 for willfully impeding OSHA’s investigation and refused to comply with the warrant. ...
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Demystifying the Process of Contesting an OSHA Citation

Almost without exception, simply reaching for the checkbook to pay an OSHA citation upon receipt of the citation is never advisable. Indeed, one alternative way to resolve a citation is to immediately request what is referred to as an “informal conference” with the OSHA area director. The informal conference, which must take place no later than 15 business days of the employer’s receipt of the citation, is very popular because it presents an opportunity at an early stage of the process to negotiate a penalty reduction, extension of abatement dates, deletion of violations, and/or reclassification of violations. But, what if you feel the right path for your company is to resist any notion that you can’t fight city hall and you decide to contest the citation? My recent article appearing in IndustryWeek, Demystifying the Process of Contesting ...
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OSHA Offers Free On-Site Consultations to Improve Workplace Safety

Through its On-Site Consultation program, OSHA wants to help small to medium-sized businesses improve and maintain workplace safety standards. In most cases, OSHA representatives will travel directly to your workplace and conduct a detailed inspection. The OSHA representative will identify potential hazards, discuss potential solutions, and review and improve injury prevention programs. This free service is confidential and operates separately from OSHA’s inspection  branch. Neither identifying information nor discovered hazards will be routinely reported to OSHA inspection staff. Additionally, no citations are issued during the consultation. A typical consultation works much like an OSHA inspection. A consultant will first conduct an opening conference to discuss the consultation process. This includes both the consultant’s role as well as the employer’s potential obligations. The consultant and employer will then conduct a walkthrough ...
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OSHA’s Guide To Restroom Access for Transgender Workers

iStock_000019703424_Medium OSHA’s recent publication of its Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers (“Guide”) further forged OSHA’s foray into the spotlight of the hotly prolific LBGT rights discussion. The Guide, which aims to assure that employers provide a safe and healthful working environment for all employees, underscores the principle that “all employees should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity,” according to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. Under OSHA’s Sanitation Standard (1910.141), employers are required to provide their employees with toilet facilities. Accordingly, the Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers seeks to avoid adverse health effects that may result if toilets are not available when employees need them, including urinary tract infections, as well as bowel and bladder problems. In ...
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OSHA to Focus on Certain Key Hazards During Healthcare Inspections

As announced a few days ago, OSHA is expanding its use of enforcement resources in hospitals and nursing homes to focus on the following recognized hazards: i) musculoskeletal disorders related to patient or resident handling; ii) bloodborne pathogens; iii) workplace violence; iv) tuberculosis; and v) slips, trips, and falls. These hazards represent some of the most common causes of workplace injury and illness in the healthcare industry. Notably, the injury/illness rate for injuries and illnesses to hospital workers (in 2013) was almost twice as high as the overall rate for private industry. In that regard, hospitals recorded nearly 58,000 work-related injuries and illnesses, amounting to 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees. On this subject, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, remarked that healthcare ...
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Summer is Coming. And OSHA Wants to Help Workers to Beat the Heat

It may not be officially summer just yet, but with the rising temperatures and bright sunny days, it is just around the corner. And while the summer heat means days spent at the beach and backyard barbeques, it also means an increased risk of heat-related illness and death. According to OSHA, each year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill due to working in the heat. While the majority of these incidents are from the construction industry, this issue affects all industries that involve outdoor work. To raise awareness and help protect workers, OSHA has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service. This is the fifth year these organizations have joined together to raise awareness in the prevention of heat-related injury and ...
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OSHA Rule Regarding Confined Spaces “Hooked” In Texas

Recently, the Texas Association of Builders (“TAB”) filed a petition in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a review of a newly finalized OSHA rule, which was aimed at reducing confined space risks in construction activities.  The TAB petition potentially hinders the rule’s implementation, delaying years’ worth of the rule’s development by the Bush and Obama Administrations. Specifically, the OSHA final rule conforms construction safety standards with OSHA’s existing confined space regulations for general industry, but contains additional provisions.  For example, the new rule contains an additional provision that requires parties to coordinate with local emergency responders before entering a confined space. Ultimately, TAB’s argument against the new confined space standard is grounded upon the idea that it is arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, TAB ...
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Deadly Incident Shows Importance of Addressing OSHA Citations Regarding Process Safety Management

iStock_000009175390_XXXLarge OSHA recently investigated a DuPont facility after four workers were killed by the release of a lethal gas. OSHA cited DuPont for 11 safety violations and fined them $99,000. Nine of these violations were classified as “serious” (OSHA defines a serious violation as when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm), while one was a repeat violation. A DuPont worker was overcome by the release of methyl mercaptan gas after she opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line. Two co-workers rushed to her aid, but were unaware of the gas leak and were also overcome. None of these workers wore any respiratory protection. A fourth co-worker aware of the gas leak attempted a rescue, but was also overcome ...
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OSHA Releases Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit

Most people associate the name OSHA with safety standards for the protection of workers in construction and manufacturing settings. OSHA, however, is not so limited, as demonstrated by its recently released Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit, which is designed to help hospitals and other health care employers protect their staff from respiratory hazards. The toolkit was a joint effort of OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It is an outgrowth of a California-specific guide issued in May 2012. The toolkit explains that it “creates no new legal obligations” but “was developed to assist hospitals in developing and implementing effective respiratory protection programs, with an emphasis on preventing the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases (ATDs) to healthcare personnel.” The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and ...
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OSHA Issues Final Rule to Increase Protections Afforded to Construction Workers in Confined Spaces

Working in confined spaces exposes construction workers to many hazards, including asphyxiation, explosions, electrocutions and toxic substances. Until recently OSHA had one provision in its construction standards setting forth a general training requirement when employees worked in confined spaces. This provision (29 CFR 1926.21(b)(6)) provided limited guidance, instructing employers to train employees as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken and in the use of required protective emergency equipment. On May 1, 2015, OSHA announced a new “final rule” which provides a comprehensive standard that includes a permit program designed to protect employees from exposure to many hazards associated with work in confined spaces, including atmospheric and physical standards. The final rule is similar in content and organization to the general industry confined spaces ...
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