Recent OSHA enforcement cases: Confined spaces, fall fatalities
Alabama framing contractor cited for exposing employees to falls
OSHA has cited Diaz Professional Construction LLC for exposing employees to falls at a Montgomery, Alabama, residential worksite. The framing contractor faces $31,879 in penalties.
OSHA initiated the inspection as part of its Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction after inspectors observed employees performing framing activities without fall protection. OSHA cited the company for failing to use a fall protection system, allowing employees to operate pneumatic nail guns without eye protection and failing to train workers on the fall hazards.
“Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in construction,” said OSHA Mobile Area Director Jose Gonzalez. “Employers can protect workers from falls by ensuring that they wear required personal fall arrest or restraint systems, and by installing guardrail systems around roof openings.”
Utility pole company cited in heat-related fatality at Nebraska worksite
OSHA has cited Smith Mountain Investments LLC after a heat-related fatality at a jobsite in Inman, Nebraska.
An employee became ill while performing extreme physical activity in excessive temperatures in July 2019 and later died. OSHA cited the Anson, Maine-based company for two serious safety and health violations for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with heavy physical activity in extreme heat conditions, and ensure medical care was available. The utility pole inspection company faces $18,564 in penalties.
“Death from heat related illness is a preventable tragedy,” said OSHA Omaha Acting Area Director Matt Thurlby. “When working in dangerously high temperatures, employers are responsible for implementing a heat safety program that includes modifying work practices, using controls to reduce heat stress and requiring water and rest breaks in shaded areas.”
$1,591,176 in penalties issued to AB Specialty Silicones after 4 fatalities in Illinois plant explosion
OSHA has cited AB Specialty Silicones LLC for 12 willful federal safety violations after four employees suffered fatal injuries in an explosion and fire at the company’s Waukegan, Illinois, plant on May 3, 2019. The company faces $1,591,176 in penalties. OSHA has placed the silicon chemical products manufacturer in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA investigators determined AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards, and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition.
“Employers must employ hazard recognition to protect workers from harm, especially in high hazard industries,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “By ignoring safety and health requirements, this employer created an unsafe work environment with deadly consequences.”
“An employer's adherence to safety and health standards, including the proper use of electrical equipment and forklifts when handling flammable liquids, is critical to preventing fire, explosions and other incidents that can seriously or fatally injure workers,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Nancy Hauter, in Chicago, Illinois.
Alabama newspaper publisher cited for exposing employees to amputations after injury
OSHA has cited BH Media Group Inc. for exposing employees to amputation hazards after an employee suffered an injury at the Opelika, Alabama, facility. The company faces $145,858 in penalties.
An employee suffered a finger amputation after their hand was caught in a stacking machine that unintentionally started while being serviced. OSHA cited the company for failing to effectively guard machinery, and develop and implement written procedures to prevent unintentional start-up during service or maintenance. The agency conducted the inspection in conjunction with the National Emphasis Program on Amputations.
“Employers’ failure to instruct workers on how to control hazardous energy when they are servicing machines can lead to this type of preventable injury,” said OSHA Mobile Area Director Jose A. Gonzalez. “Using proper lockout/tagout energy control procedures can protect workers from potential amputations.”
Managers sentenced to probation and ordered to pay fines for conspiracy to obstruct justice in U.S. Department of Labor fatality investigation
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has sentenced Brian L. Carder and Paul Love – former managers at Extrudex Aluminum’s plant in North Jackson, Ohio – after each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice charges. The court’s action follows an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that found the managers attempted to hide information and intimidate employees from speaking to OSHA investigators about an employee fatality in October 2012.
On October 15, 2019, Carder was sentenced to three years of probation with weekend only confinement for the first five months and ordered to pay a fine of $20,100. On October 22, 2019, Love was sentenced to three years of probation – including three months of home confinement – and ordered to pay a fine of $1,100.
OSHA’s investigation found that, on October 30, 2012, the 21-year-old employee suffered fatally injuries when a rack containing hot aluminum parts tipped over and pinned him in an oven. A co-worker also suffered severe injuries. In a settlement agreement with OSHA, Extrudex Aluminum accepted one willful and seven serious citations, and agreed to pay a $112,000 penalty.
The indictment states Carder and Love devised a plan to coerce subordinates – by suggesting their jobs might be in jeopardy – to draft statements to recant previous emails about safety issues at the plant to conceal that management had not acted on those concerns. During an OSHA interview, Love also gave false information about safety issues.
South Florida contractor cited for cave-in and engulfment hazards after fatality
OSHA has cited Westwind Contracting Inc. for exposing employees to excavation and confined spaces hazards after a fatality at a Pembroke Pines, Florida, work site. The contractor faces $185,239 in penalties.
The employee drowned after water and mud filled a catch basin in which the employee was working. OSHA cited the Pembroke Park, Florida-based engineering company for failing to protect employees working in an excavation; train employees on how to recognize hazards related to catch basins and permit-required confined spaces; and develop and implement a permit-required confined space program. OSHA also cited the contractor for exposing workers who attempted to rescue their co-worker, to engulfment hazards.