Enforcement and Inspection

A Roundup of Recent OSHA Enforcement Actions

In the third quarter (Q3), OSHA issued citations to companies across the United States for violations of trenching standards, confined spaces, fall protection, and more.

OSHA regs and enforcement concept

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In addition to the actions outlined below, also be aware that OSHA enforcement related to COVID-19 is ongoing, including a federal citation of a meatpacking plant. State-level workplace safety citations related to COVID-19 are also prevalent, including in Michigan and many, many, many in California.

For more info on COVID-19 enforcement, read our feature for EHS professionals here.

Company fails to correct hazards
A manufacturer of home and personal care fabric products was cited for failure to abate previously identified hazards at its New York facility following an OSHA inspection. In June 2019, OSHA cited the company after an employee suffered a hand amputation in a fabric-softener sheet-cutting machine. Inspectors found the company had failed to install adequate machine guards, store materials securely, repair damaged storage racks, and train and evaluate forklift operators on safely operating equipment. OSHA also cited the company for potential fire and smoke inhalation hazards due to obstructed exit routes, an inoperable exit door, and failing to report an amputation to OSHA.
Penalty: $200,000 fine

Conveyor fatality leads to citations
A wood product manufacturer in Georgia was cited for failing to protect employees from hazardous energy and caught-by hazards after an employee suffered fatal injuries when the employee’s clothing became caught on the shaft of a conveyor. OSHA cited the company for failing to ensure energy control procedures contained specific steps to limit the release of hazardous energy, provide lockout/tagout devices for machines and equipment, and train employees to recognize hazardous energy sources. OSHA also cited the company for allowing employees to operate powered industrial trucks without training and for failing to conduct an inspection of the lockout program at least annually, provide appropriate machine guarding, and reduce compressed air to a safe level before allowing employees to use it for cleaning.
Penalty: $218,192 fine

Employees asphyxiated while in confined space
OSHA cited a Texas industrial cleaning company with one willful and two repeat violations for confined space hazards, including failing to conduct appropriate tests to ensure atmospheric conditions were safe for entry. The violations were issued for exposing employees to confined space hazards after two employees were fatally overcome by fumes while cleaning a tank trailer. “This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had complied with the law and tested and monitored the oxygen level within the tank before permitting workers to enter,” said OSHA Houston South Area Director Mark Briggs. “Employers must recognize the dangers of assigning work in confined spaces, and properly identify, test, control, and ventilate the atmosphere to ensure the safety of workers,” said Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.
Penalty: $497,920 fine

Manufacturer cited for struck-by fatality
After an employee was fatally struck by a piece of wood while attempting to clear a jammed machine, OSHA cited the Alabama lumber and flooring manufacturer that employed the worker for failing to protect employees from struck-by hazards. OSHA cited the company for failing to lock out equipment before beginning maintenance, ensure machines were properly guarded, and train employees on lockout/tagout procedures. “Employers are required to identify safety hazards, implement safety measures and train workers on the proper use of safety equipment,” said OSHA Mobile Area Director Jose Gonzalez. “Tragedies such as this can be prevented if employers comply with workplace standards, as required by law.”
Penalty: $218,192 fine

Fall hazards lead to six-figure fines
A roofing contractor in Ohio was cited with five willful violations following OSHA’s inspections at three separate residential home sites where employees were exposed to falls. OSHA cited the contractor for failing to provide appropriate fall protection, train employees to recognize and minimize fall hazards, and develop safety programs. “A contractor places workers’ lives at risk by allowing them to work at dangerous heights without proper fall protection,” said Acting OSHA Columbus Area Director David Wilson. “Falls are consistently one of OSHA’s most commonly cited hazards. With proper training and appropriate protection, these injuries can be prevented.”
Penalty: $148,430 fine

Contractor cited following trench collapse
OSHA cited a telecommunications contractor for violations of trenching and excavation standards after an employee was fatally injured in a trench collapse at a Georgia worksite. The company was cited for failing to train employees on how to recognize trench safety hazards, have a competent person conduct trench inspections, provide a safe means of egress from the excavation, and prevent water accumulation inside the excavation. OSHA also cited the company for allowing employees to work in the 10-foot excavation without shoring, sloping, or shielding trench walls and failing to report a fatality within 8 hours, as required. “Excavation collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the workplace. Employers must be vigilant in identifying and mitigating these hazards,” said Margo Westmoreland, OSHA’s Savannah Area Office Director.
Penalty: $58,025 fine

Respiratory protection violations lead to citations
A healthcare company in Ohio was cited for violating respiratory protection standards following an inspection initiated after the company reported the coronavirus-related hospitalization of seven employees. Following inspections at three of the company’s facilities, OSHA cited each location for a serious violation of two respiratory protection standards: failing to develop a comprehensive written respiratory protection program and failing to provide medical evaluations to determine employees’ ability to use a respirator in the workplace. OSHA also issued a Hazard Alert Letter regarding the company’s practice of allowing N95 respirator use for up to 7 days and not conducting initial fit testing.
Penalty: $40,482 fine