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The penalties keep piling up (1/27)

From the blog OSHA Aboveground, penned by a longtime agency hand: “Any one who follows OSHA's press releases has probably noticed a recent jump in the number of sig-cases (a sig or significant case is any OSHA case where the proposed penalty exceeds $100,000). I've certainly noticed a jump, although I don't have the numbers to back it up. The left-wing politicos will, of course, claim it's the current administration doing what the previous one failed to do. And the right-wing politicos will, of course, claim it's another example of the left's assault on business. But here's the thing, no one has told me to do more sig-cases, just like under the previous administration, no one told me not to do sig-cases. There was no memo. There was no directive.

”This has lead me to the conclusion that we (compliance officers) have allowed ourselves to be caught up in the liberal/conservative-hype-machine's rhetoric. We have suppressed our training and instincts in favor of what we assume the current administration wants, instead of making the administration tell us what they want.

”This could lead to a whole new political science/sociology field of study that I think should be called Organizational Subconscious Psychology.”

Evidence just in January 2010 alone says the subconscious mind of compliance officers is hard at work backing up Labor Secretary Solis’s claim that the OSHA sheriff is back in business. Just look at these cases:

Jan. 26 — OSHA proposes $217,500 in penalties against Hearthmark LLC, doing business as Jarden Home Brands. The inspection began in July 2009, after an employee was burned when hot wax he was transferring from a railcar erupted. The investigation, including an evaluation for combustible dust, was expanded to all areas of the facility when inspectors observed a number of safety hazards during their initial walk through.

Jan. 25 — OSHA cites Mueller Industries subsidiaries in Fulton, Miss., for safety and health violations, proposing $683,000 in penalties. OSHA began its investigation in July 2009 after a maintenance worker employed by Mueller Copper Tube Co. Inc., a subsidiary of Mueller Industries, was killed, and two other workers were injured when naphtha, a flammable liquid of hydrocarbon mixtures, leaked from an electric pump and ignited.

Jan. 15 — OSHA cited CITGO Refining and Chemicals LP in Corpus Christi for workplace safety violations resulting from a catastrophic release of hydrocarbon and hydrofluoric acid from the alkylation unit at this facility. Proposed penalties total $236,500.

Jan. 14 — OSHA proposes $233,500 in fines against Home Goods for exit access hazards at Long Island, NY, store, chiefly for exit access, fire and crushing hazards.

Jan. 13 — Three companies are being cited by OSHA for exposing workers to hazards during the construction of gas pipeline meter stations in Mississippi. Mustang Engineering L.P., Grand Bluff Construction LLC and Priority Energy Services received citations for failing to protect their workers after one died and three others were critically injured. Proposed penalties for the three companies total $189,400.

Jan. 5 — OSHA proposes 41 safety and health violations against Georgia peanut processor in Sylvester and Blakely, Ga. Investigations reveal combustible dust, noise, and lack of machine guards and guardrail. The inspections resulted in proposed penalties of $137,250.

Jan. 4 — OSHA issued CES Environmental Services Inc. willful and serious citations after an investigation into a fatal explosion at the company's Griggs Road facility in Houston. Proposed penalties total $1,477,500.

And let’s not forget last October, when OSHA announced it was issuing $87,430,000 in proposed penalties to BP Products North America Inc. for the company's failure to correct potential hazards faced by employees. The fine was the largest in OSHA's history. The prior largest total penalty, $21 million, was issued in 2005, also against BP.

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