Voluntary Internal Safety Audits: “Do’s” and “Don’ts”

There is no disputing that taking a proactive approach to safety and ensuring compliance within your company is not only prudent – but critical – for employers. It is equally critical, however, that employers understand the benefits and potential liabilities that initiating these measures can create. This post will break down the “dos” and “don’ts” of internal safety audits. First and foremost: as a general rule, you should never engage in a voluntary safety audit if you are not prepared and willing to…
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Whistleblower Protections for Employees Apply Regardless of Immigration Status

OSHA prohibits retaliation against employees for exercising their workplace rights, regardless of the employees’ immigration status. That issue has come up in a recently filed federal lawsuit initiated by the U.S. Department of Labor when an undocumented construction worker was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shortly after reporting a workplace injury and filing a worker’s compensation claim arising from a 2017 accident. Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees for exercising their rights under the OSH Act.…
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OSHA Guidelines Address Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Carbon monoxide is known as a silent killer because it lacks any distinct taste or smell. It is the byproduct of combustion and can prove to be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 400 Americans die each year from accidental poisoning not caused by fires. As such, and as codified under 29 CFR Part 1917.24, testing for carbon monoxide is required along with establishing limits for the concentration of carbon monoxide. Causes of Carbon Monoxide Appliances and tools…
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Refinery Explosion Highlights Importance of Comprehensive Process Hazard Analysis

An explosion at an oil refinery last April in Superior, Wisconsin has led to the refinery being cited with eight serious violations by OSHA and the filing of at least two lawsuits. The explosion and subsequent fire resulted in 36 injuries, including 11 OSHA recordable injuries, and the evacuation of significant portions of the city, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). The CSB concluded that the explosion resulted from the inadvertent mixing of hydrocarbons with air inside the Fluid Catalytic…
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Fall Protection in the Construction Industry: An Overview of Subpart M of the OSHA Construction Standards

When it comes to the risks associated with fall hazards, there are compelling reason to surpass any minimum level of training that may be required for employees. This is for good reason – Worker falls account for approximately one-third of all fatalities in the construction industry. Suffice it to say, the stakes are very high – and real. It is critical that employers provide proper fall protection for employees and undertake effective measures to ensure employee compliance. Proper procedure suggests that when employees don’t follow…
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OSHA’s Increased Penalties and Additional Reasons to Enhance Your Safety Performance

In any major city (and, actually, everywhere), construction is a way of life. Cities continuously expand, renovate, and build.  With more job sites has come more scrutiny and oversight from OSHA. OSHA’s stated mission includes to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards.”  When employers fail to abide by those standards, they face penalties – and, in 2019, the maximum penalties again went up. OSHA Penalties In fact, since 2015, the maximum penalty amounts have almost…
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OSHA Eliminates the Requirement for Certain Employers to Electronically Submit Information from Forms 300 and 301 to OSHA

On January 25, 2019, OSHA issued a final rule eliminating the requirement that employers with 250 or more employees electronically submit information from Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to OSHA each year. These establishments, however, are still required to electronically submit information from Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) to OSHA through a secured OSHA website. Collection of calendar year 2018 information from the OSHA Form 300A began on January 2, 2019,…
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Passing the Buck: How Employers in New York State can Escape Liability in Occupational Hearing Loss Claims

It’s an all too common tale for many construction companies doing business in New York state. A unionized worker shows up on one of their job sites. Although the worker has been in the trade for decades, it’s the first time that the company has employed them. The worker is only on the job for a short time frame and subsequently retires. The worker, who began developing occupational hearing loss secondary to exposure to industrial noise decades ago, files a claim for workers’ compensation and…
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Element 4 of the Unpreventable Employee Misconduct Defense: Enforcement of Work Rules Through Disciplinary Action When Violations are Discovered

In the final part of this four-part series, we examine the fourth element an employer must establish to successfully raise the “unpreventable employee misconduct” affirmative defense in response to an OSHA citation: that the employer effectively enforces its safety rules upon discovering any violations. Simply stated, this last element requires that an employer discipline its employees for violating any company safety rules. As with the other elements of this affirmative defense, documentation is critical. The fourth element of this defense goes to the very core…
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Element Three of the Unpreventable Employee Misconduct Defense: Insistence on Compliance and Established Methods of Discovering Violations, Despite Not Knowing About the Subject Violation

In part three of this four-part series addressing the “Unpreventable Employee Misconduct” defense, we will examine the third element an employer must prove to successfully defend against an OSHA citation: that the employer insisted on compliance and had methods of discovering violations of its rules, even though it did not know about the specific violation. Similar to all other elements of this defense, the concept is relatively simple: the employer must insist on safety compliance and have established methods for discovering violations of OSHA violations,…
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