December 2015 OSHA Fines and Settlements Top $3.8 Million

Federal OSHA wrapped up 2015 by releasing details on 17 significant fines (over $100,000) in December, with total proposed penalties of nearly $3 million. In addition, an $825,000 settlement was reached with Dollar Tree Stores that requires the company to “develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program consistent with OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines.”

OSHA issued more than 170 significant fines during 2015 with a total value of $36.3 million. Here are details of the top 5 actions in December. Some are still pending final decisions.

$462,000 for ammonia refrigeration violations at an Ohio poultry processor. 2015 Total: $1.87 million!

Deficiencies in ammonia refrigeration systems at two facilities resulted in $462,000 of fines in December. OSHA cited 11 repeat, four serious and two other-than-serious violations at one plant, and an additional five repeat and three serious violations at another. Inspectors found the company, which is already in the SVEP program, lacked clear, written operating procedures, failed to test and inspect systems and did not provide adequate training for workers. OSHA also found the company failed to:

– Perform annual bloodborne pathogen refresher training.
– Provide hepatitis B vaccine for workers exposed to bloodborne pathogens.
– Store gas cylinders properly.

An OSHA spokesman said, “The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards.” View the current citations here and here.

$366,300 for exposing immigrant workers to safety hazards at a Missouri steel plant

Two years after a worker died by electrocution OSHA inspectors found the company continues to expose its workforce, predominantly consisting of Asian immigrants with limited English speaking skills, to amputation, electrical and other hazards daily. Responding to a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions, OSHA cited two willful, seven repeated and 22 serious safety and health violations, including inadequate machine safety guards, insufficient crane inspections, faulty head protection, hot work conducted near combustible materials, and more. In addition,OSHA has opened a whistleblower investigation. View current citations here and here.

$332,400 in back pay and damages for wrongful termination following an injury at a Missouri transportation company

The company disciplined a five-year employee after he reported work-related injuries. When the worker sought reimbursement of medical co-payments, the company required him to submit a second injury report and then threatened to discipline him for filing it late. Without a thorough investigation, the company terminated him in 2014. OSHA has ordered the company to give the employee his job back and pay more than $332,469 in back wages and damages, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees.

$178,600 for 40 fall protection and other violations at a Wisconsin painting company

A worker repainting a water tower suffered severe injuries when he fell inside the tower to a platform below. Inspectors found the employer lacked adequate fall protection and cited 40 serious safety and health violations, including failure to develop permit-required confined space procedures, neglecting to erect and inspect scaffolding correctly, lack of a proper respiratory protection program, failure to conduct regular job site visits and electrical safety hazards. View current citations.

$165,000 for whistleblower violations at a Bronx hair salon

A receptionist was fired for telling her colleagues about the hazards of a formaldehyde-containing straightener the salon used. An investigation found the worker was days after she gave her colleagues an OSHA fact sheet about formaldehyde hazards. The worker was awarded back pay and compensatory damages.

Other significant December fines include:

– $162,000 for dangerous fall hazards at an Illinois construction company
– $157,000 for noise, toxic metal and other hazards at an Illinois metal plating company
– $145,600 for mechanical and electrical hazards at a Massachusetts manufacturing plant
Read more OSHA news releases here.