On January 26, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new enforcement guidance, allowing “instance-by-instance” citations for “high-gravity” serious violations of several agency standards.
Regional administrators and area office directors will have the authority to issue instance-by-instance citations for violations of fall protection, lockout/tagout, machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, and trenching standards, as well as for cases with other-than-serious violations of recordkeeping requirements.
The new policy becomes effective March 27.
“This is intended to be a targeted strategy for those employers who repeatedly choose to put profits before their employees’ safety, health and wellbeing,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement. “Employers who callously view injured or sickened workers simply as a cost of doing business will face more serious consequences.”
In a separate enforcement memorandum, the agency reminded regional administrators and area office directors of their authority not to group violations but instead to cite them separately.
Colorado employer arrested in trench fatality
A Vail, Colorado, contractor facing felony manslaughter charges in connection with a fatal trench collapse surrendered to local law enforcement in Breckenridge, Colorado, OSHA announced January 26.
In May 2022, OSHA cited Peter Dillon, owner of the now-defunct A4S LLC, for three willful violations and one serious violation. The agency proposed penalties totaling $449,583. On January 24, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant related to OSHA’s findings in a deadly November 2021 trench collapse.
A worker installing residential sewer pipes suffered fatal injuries when the trench around him caved in. The collapse resulted from deteriorating conditions at the site. A4S LLC could have prevented the collapse by using required trench protection systems, according to OSHA.
Agency investigators cited Dillon for not ensuring the excavation was inspected by a competent person, failing to instruct employees on the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions, and not having a trench protective system in place. Investigators also cited Dillon for not having a safe means of egress within 25 lateral feet of employees working in a trench.
The Labor Department referred the case to the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office, recommending criminal charges for A4S LLC’s refusal to require safety protection despite worsening trench conditions that included at least one trench collapse.
After A4S LLC was shuttered, Dillon agreed to forfeit any future ownership, leadership, or management position that involves trenching or excavation and the oversight of workplace safety and health.
“There is no excuse for Peter Dillon’s failures to protect workers when federal requirements clearly outline and require safety measures proven to save lives,” John Rainwater, the Department of Labor’s Dallas regional solicitor of labor, said in an agency statement. “Today’s arrest by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office cannot recover a life lost in this senseless tragedy but it is a step toward seeking justice for the family.”
OSHA has an ongoing National Emphasis Program (NEP) to address trenching and excavation hazards and announced plans last summer for 1,000 excavation inspections following a spike in trenching and excavation fatalities.
Kansas plastics manufacturer facing $292K in OSHA fines
A Kingman, Kansas, plastics manufacturer faces OSHA penalties totaling $292,421 for two willful, one repeat, and seven serious safety violations following a worker fatality.
The agency cited Great Lakes Polymer Technologies LLC, doing business as FabPro Polymers, after a worker suffered fatal injuries when he became entangled in a rotating part inside a bagging machine while trying to clear a jam. OSHA investigators found that duct tape over a safety interlock prevented the machine from shutting down. The victim was caught by the machine and pulled into its rotating bars.
Safety violations included:
- The absence of adequate machine guarding,
- Not using lockout/tagout (control of hazardous energy) procedures to stop machines from operating during servicing and maintenance,
- Not training workers on lockout/tagout procedures, and
- Exposing workers to slip and fall hazards from plastic particles and hydraulic fluid leaked on floors.
OSHA’s lockout/tagout and machine guarding standards are among the agency’s most frequently cited standards, cited 1,977 and 1,370 times, respectively, in fiscal year (FY) 2022.