Michael Rubin

All articles by Michael Rubin

 

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…  

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,…  

OSHA Relaxes Position regarding Safety Incentive Programs and Post-Incident Drug Screening

On October 11, 2018, OSHA issued a Memorandum (the Memorandum) ostensibly clarifying its position on post-accident drug testing and employee incentive programs.  Any fair reading of the Memorandum, however, shows that OSHA is actually doing a lot more than simply “clarifying” its position – in some respects, it is completely reversing course.  This is especially true with respect to safety incentive programs.  And employers should take note. Safety Incentive Plans OSHA’s “old” position on safety incentive plans – since at least 2016, and actually well…  

OSHA and Hazard Assessments: Electrical Hazards in the Workplace

OSHA requires that employers “instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions” and the regulations applicable to the workplace “to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.” This broad directive underscores the necessity of conducting a hazard assessment—determining the hazards present in the work environment. Indeed, one of the “root causes” of workplace incidents is the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present, or that could have been anticipated. Take, for example, electrical hazards. Many…  

ASME B30 — Hoisting Your Crane Safety and Compliance Higher

OSHA will be the first to admit that its safety standards set forth “minimum” safety standards. In the most basic of terms, this means that when it comes to safety more can — and often should (or even must) — be done. This begs the question: What “more” can be done? Ask 10 different safety professionals and you may get 10 different answers—all of which could be right. The general consensus, however, is that a comprehensive health and safety system is needed—complete with management commitment,…  

Minimizing OSHA Liability : More Than an Ounce of Prevention

OSHA penalties can be costly. In fact, a single “repeat” or “willful” violation can result in a penalty of $126,749. And, if you have multiple violations, that number can increase significantly. This article addresses measures any employer can implement to minimize the risk of costly penalties while—at the same time—promote the most important goal which is to provide a safe work environment for employees. Perform a Self-Assessment
The first step is to take an in-depth look at your organization and assess how you are doing…  

OSHA and The Trump Administration: The First 200 Days

Any new presidential administration is likely to bring a new philosophy, vision, and focus to a variety of issues—including workplace safety and health. More than 200 days into the Trump presidency, we take a look below at some of the top developments in OSHA thus far in 2017. OSHA’s Volks Rule Overturned 
The Volks rule—formally the “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness”—was issued on December 19, 2016, during the final days of the…  

OSHA’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy and Construction Sites: Who Is An Employer?

Since OSHA’s mission statement is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women,” it’s no surprise that its enforcement authority generally rests with citing employers. The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act requires “each employer” to comply with OSHA standards. Construction is no different—29 CFR 1910.12 obligates each “employer” to protect “employees engaged in construction work” and to comply “with the appropriate standards.” OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy (MECP), however, dictates that up to four separate entities all may be cited—and recognized…  

Preparing for an OSHA Inspection 101

When it comes to OSHA inspections, preparation is critical. Figuring out what to do (and who should do it) only after an inspector arrives on site puts employers at an immediate—and often irreversible—disadvantage. Consider implementing these OSHA inspection best practices now, before a proverbial “knock on the door.” Fourth Amendment Rights Employers—just like people on the street and in their homes—are entitled to Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. An OSHA inspector therefore needs one of two things to proceed with an inspection:…  

OSHA Interviews: Understanding and Exercising Your Rights

Section 8(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 authorizes OSHA to inspect workplaces “during regular working hours and at other reasonable times, and within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner.” While employers have some level of protection since the mandate specifically states the word “reasonable,” more specific rights exist—and should be exercised—at all stages of an OSHA inspection, including before, during, and after the interview process. Basic Interview Rights During an OSHA inspection, one or more of your employees is…  

Congress Overturns OSHA Recordkeeping Rule

On March 1, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution of disapproval, under the Congressional Review Act, to block OSHA’s “Volks” rule. On March 22, 2017, the Senate followed suit and voted to overturn the rule. Now, the resolution will be forwarded to President Trump to sign, which is expected to occur. The Volks rule—formally the “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness” rule—was issued on December 19, 2016, during the final…  

Does Settling an OSHA Citation Make Good Business Sense?

Shortly after issuing a citation to an employer, OSHA will often agree to reduce the penalty amount provided the employer agrees not to contest it. But could settling invite further trouble? For a number of reasons, contractors should give considerable thought before entering into an early settlement with OSHA. You Need to Move Quickly Upon receipt of a citation, you have three basic options: accept the citation as-issued (this is almost never the best option); request an informal conference and attempt to settle or convince…  

Establish a Strong OSHA Defense Before an Inspector Shows Up

In most instances, an OSHA inspector will arrive at your door unannounced. Among other things, the inspector will present his or her credentials, say why he or she is there, and then ask for your consent to conduct an inspection. The actual inspection and a closing conference will follow, along with the issuance of any citations within six months of any violations. UNPREVENTABLE EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT DEFENSE Although many procedural and legal defenses may exist to an OSHA citation, one of the most popular and effective…  

OSHA Report Analyzes First Year of New Reporting Requirements

In late 2014, many employers learned about the new OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements that were to go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2015. Under the new requirements, employers were required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident. (Under the old rule, employers had the same reporting requirement for fatalities, but were only required to report in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees 

OSHA Upping the Ante

Employers, get ready. Recent developments show that OSHA will step up its campaign of workplace investigations with measures that pursue an even greater degree of influence on you. In my recent article, “OSHA Ups the Ante in U.S. Workplaces,” I examined the impact on employers of the likely astronomical leap in monetary penalties coming soon to recipients of OSHA violations, the “name and shame” approach taken by the agency against violators, and a new enforcement weighting system — along with practical steps employers…  

OSHA Issues Updated Version of Its Field Operations Manual

Last month, OSHA issued the latest update to its Field Operations Manual (FOM), the most recent update since a prior update in 2009. Significantly, OSHA’s FOM serves as a reference document for OSHA field personnel, providing enforcement policies and procedures relating to OSHA investigations and enforcement proceedings. This nearly 300-page manual contains 16 chapters addressing all aspects of the inspection and enforcement process, including, for example, chapters on “inspection procedures,” “violations,” “penalties and debt collection,” and “post-citation procedures and abatement verification.” In basic terms, the…  

OSHA Launches Regional Emphasis Program in Southern States Aimed at Protecting Poultry Workers

In view of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries and six times more likely to get sick on the job than other private sector workers, OSHA launched a new Regional Emphasis Program last week to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic stressors affecting industry workers. The targeted states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas – states that include some of the country’s largest poultry producers. OSHA’s emphasis program will include an initial…  

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…  

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…  

OSHA Citation to General Contractor Underscores the Need for Proper Equipment and Safety and Health Programs

OSHA recently cited a Florida general contractor – retained to restore the concrete finish on high-rise apartment buildings – for 17 “serious” safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $119,000. (A “serious” violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.) The inspection was initiated after OSHA received complaints alleging fall hazards at two work sites. OSHA charges that the company exposed workers to falls of…  

Roofing Contractor’s Failure to Respond to OSHA Citations Could Send Contractor to Jail

In December 2011, a Maine roofing contractor was directed by federal court order to correct violations associated with 11 different OSHA citations and to pay $404,000 in fines and interest that had been imposed previously over the period 2000 to 2011. The 11 citations related to 11 different work sites, and the contractor not only never responded to the initial citations but also never corrected the underlying safety conditions or paid the assessed fines after the citations had turned into final orders. Now, the contractor…  

Updates and Studies: Top OSHA-Related News for the Week

The following are highlights of the OSHA-related news for the week:  

OSHA: Hospital Workers Exposed to Contaminated Laundry

OSHA has cited a New York City hospital after an investigation found workers were exposed to laundry contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, and other infectious materials. Approximately one year ago, the Manhattan hospital allegedly replaced linen laundry bags with thin plastic bags that broke, exposing workers to health hazards. Clothing, sheets, towels and other soiled laundry spewed onto the floor of the basement when bags broke or failed to stay closed as they came down laundry chutes. Employees were further exposed as they gathered and…  

OSHA Form 300A Posting Period to Commence Feb. 1

  Employers with more than ten employees and whose establishments are not classified as a partially exempt industry must record work-related injuries and illnesses using OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301. From Februay through April, these covered employers are required to post OSHA Form 300A, which summarizes the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2014 and were logged on OSHA’s Form 300 (the log of work-related injuries and illnesses). The summary must be posted between Feb. 1 and April 30,…  

OSHA Reporting Requirements for Fatalities and Injuries Simplified

Under the OSHA reporting requirements for work-related injuries and fatalities (effective Jan. 1, 2015), employers are required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident. The following are the three ways to report any work-related injuries and/or fatalities to OSHA: (1) call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); (2) call your nearest OSHA area office during normal business hours; or (3) use the OSHA electronic reporting (online) form, available…  

Focusing on Safety (and Potential Recognition) with OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program

If you are a small or medium-sized business and want to know how you are doing in terms of safety, one option is to simply ask OSHA by participating in its voluntary On-site Consultation Program. If you elect to participate in this program, a consultant will work with you to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are confidential, separate from enforcement, and do not result in penalties or…  

Credibility of Injured Employee Key Consideration in Vacating Citation

A recent decision from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission shows the importance credibility of witnesses can play in any contested action. In this recent matter, the Administrative Law Judge (the court) vacated a citation against a telecommunications and electrical utilities company (the company) in view of – in large part – the “untruthful demeanor” of the injured employee and the fact that the employee appeared to have “an ax to grind” with his employer. By way of background, the injured employee filed a…  

Contesting an OSHA Citation – Some Basics

An OSHA citation usually comes at the worst time. Actually, is there ever a good time? Probably not. But, what if after receiving a citation you realize you do not agree with it? Or, perhaps, you cannot deny that the violative conduct occurred, but you believe certain mitigating factors should be taken into account that might warrant dismissal of the citation or a reduction of the penalty. If these thoughts are coming to mind, you may have a basis to challenge the citation. In order…  

OSHA Citations on Fall Prevention and Exposure to Excessive Heat Affirmed on Appeal

Two recent court cases upheld citations that were issued for violations of OSHA’s fall protection standard and a willful citation for exposing workers to excessive heat. In September of 2011, OSHA inspectors in Cleveland, Ohio observed a worker performing roof repairs on a church’s steep-pitched roof without any fall protection. An inspection, in turn, resulted in the issuance of “serious” and “repeat” citations to the roofing company for violating OSHA’s fall prevention regulations. In an appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“OSHRC”),…  

Comment Period Extended on Proposed Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

OSHA has announced that it will extend the comment period on the proposed rule to improve the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014. The proposal, published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep. OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 1) require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and…  

Brooklyn Medical Facility Cited by OSHA for Inadequate Workplace Violence Safeguards

Employees of a Brooklyn medical facility were allegedly exposed to head, eye, face and groin injuries and intimidation and threats during routine interactions with patients and visitors. An inspection by OSHA reportedly found approximately 40 incidents of workplace violence between February 7 and April 12, 2014. These incidents involved employees who were threatened or physically and verbally assaulted by patients and visitors, or when breaking up altercations between patients. The most serious incident was an assault of a nurse, who sustained severe brain injuries when…  

OSHA to Refer Time-Barred Whistleblower Claims to the NLRB

On May 21st, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that OSHA will begin referring time-barred whistleblower claims (brought pursuant to Section 11(c) of the OSH Act) to the NLRB, which has a longer limitations period, for investigation and potential prosecution. In order to facilitate this collaborative program, OSHA agents have been provided with talking points briefly describing the NLRB and providing other information to use when referring untimely Section 11(c) complainants. The statute of limitations for a whistleblower claim brought pursuant to Section…  

This Week’s Top OSHA Related News

 

23 Citations to Florida Manufacturer Underscore the Importance of Compliance with Respiratory and Toxic and Hazardous Substances Standards

OSHA recently cited a Florida manufacturer for 23 safety and health violations with proposed penalties totaling $106,000 for exposing workers to dangerous welding fumes and other hazards. Of the 23 alleged violations, 19 were classified as “serious violations,” that is, a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result. The inspection — conducted as part of OSHA’s national emphasis program on amputations — resulted in violations in two main categories: respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134) and toxic and hazardous substances –…  

OSHA’s Burden of Proof and Contesting the “Knowledge” Element

In order to establish a violation in any case, OSHA must prove the following four elements: (1) the cited standard applies; (2) the employer failed to comply with the standard; (3) employees had access to the violative condition; and (4) the employer knew, or with the exercise of reasonable diligence, could have known of the violative condition. A recent decision from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) (March 7, 2014, Docket No. 12-2152), provides an opportunity to discuss the fourth element, the “knowledge”…  

The Informal Conference: To Settle or Not To Settle

An important right upon receipt of an OSHA citation is to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director. Notably, an informal conference must be held within 15 working days of your receipt of the citation. (This is the same deadline as for contesting the citation. It is also important to keep in mind that requesting and/or appearing at an informal conference will not extend the time you have to contest the citation.) Informal conferences are popular and may be extremely useful because they…  

OSHA Related News for April

 

Exploring the Limits of OSHA’s Inspection Authority: A Precursor to Exercising Your Rights

If an OSHA inspector, known as a compliance safety and health officer (CSHO), arrives at your door, presents his or her credentials, and asks for you to consent to an inspection of your workplace, what do you do? If you consent, what should you expect to happen next? And if you refuse to consent, then what? Obviously it would be wishful thinking to conclude that the CSHO would simply leave, bid you good day and never come back. These rather elementary questions are among the…  

OSHA Announces National Stand-Down for Fall Prevention

OSHA has announced a national safety stand-down from June 2 to June 6, 2014 to raise awareness about the hazards of falls, which account for the highest number of deaths in the construction industry. In order to conduct a safety stand-down, a construction company should stop working at a specific designated time and provide a focused toolbox talk on a safety topic such as ladder safety, fall protection equipment, or scaffolds safety. The purpose of the meeting is to provide information to workers about hazards,…  

Six Practical Tips for Minimizing OSHA Liability

As many employers know, OSHA penalties can be costly. Some employers, however, never even receive an OSHA citation. Why is this? Is it luck? Or is it because the employer implemented well-thought and planned systems and strategies specifically designed to promote the health and safety of its workers? In my recent article in Industry Week, I assert that it is likely the later – and provide six practical tips and strategies that employers in virtually any industry may implement. These strategies include:
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Labor Department Sues Ohio Bell for Suspending Workers Who Reported Workplace Injuries

OSHA has accused the Ohio Bell Telephone Company (“Ohio Bell”), which operates as AT&T, of suspending workers for reporting their various workplace injuries, including in two instances related to ladder accidents. “It is against the law for employers to discipline or suspend employees for reporting injuries,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “AT&T must understand that by discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more workers being injured in the future.” The lawsuit, brought by…  

You’ve Received an OSHA Citation: Step One

If you receive an OSHA citation, one of the things you certainly should not do is put the citation on the corner of your desk and tell yourself that you will take care of it “later.” Essentially, this is the equivalent of doing nothing and contrary to wishful thinking the citation is not going to vanish on its own with the passage of time. Often, after getting consumed by something else, “later” winds up being much later. This is not advisable. It is important to…