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”), the employer claimed that the worker was not his employee (and, instead, an independent contractor), but the review commission disagreed. Recently, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the findings of the OSHRC and affirmed OSHA’s citations.
In September of 2014, OSHRC Judge Peggy Ball affirmed a general duty clause citation that was issued by OSHA to the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) related to the heat illness related death of a postal worker in July 2012. OSHA cited the USPS for failing to address recognized hazards to employees working outside in excessive heat. In addition to sustaining the violation, Judge Ball agreed that the citation was properly characterized as “willful” and agreed with OSHA that the imposition of the full $70,000 penalty was appropriate. “This ruling underscores the need for employers to take proactive steps to keep workers safe in extreme heat,” said Barbara Theriot, OSHA’s area director in Kansas City.