Combating Unpredictable Workplace Violence Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause

Stop violence

On August 26, 2015, a Virginia news reporter, Alison Parker, and a photojournalist, Adam Ward, were tragically shot down by a former colleague while conducting a live television broadcast in Moneta, Virginia. The gunman was later confirmed to be a former reporter at the victims’ news station, who was fired for disruptive conduct in 2013. Such acts of workplace violence are senseless and unpredictable, but there are ways to mitigate dangers still. According to OSHA statistics, every year nearly two million Americans report being victims of workplace violence. Among those two million, 600 end tragically in a fatality. While there are no specific OSHA standards for such workplace violence, OSHA seeks to combat workplace violence under its General Duty Clause. Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH ...
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Maine Joins New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois as Newest State Plan Protecting State and Local Employees

iStock_000014180019_Large OSHA recently approved Maine as the newest State Plan responsible for protecting the safety and health of state and local government employees. Under the approved plan, the Maine Department of Labor is designated as the state agency responsible for the development and enforcement of occupational safety and health standards applicable to state and local government employment throughout the state. OSHA retains full authority for coverage of private sector  employees in the State of Maine, as well as for coverage of federal government employees. Maine joins New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, and the Virgin Islands as one of six states and territories that administer safety and health programs for state and local  government employees. According to a press release from the United States Department of Labor, twenty-four states still do ...
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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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