OSHA Enforcement Update: Confined Space Writes OSHA Press Releases

If OSHA won’t do it, Confined Space will.

During the Obama administration, OSHA’s policy was to issue a press release for any citation greater than $40,000. Since January 20, 2017,  OSHA has issued roughly 200 citations for $40,000 or above. Yesterday, OSHA issued its first — and thus far, only — enforcement press release of the Trump administration: A $1.5 million citation to Atlantic Drain Service Co.  for killing two workers in a trench collapse.

That press release seems to be the exception.  Apparently the new threshold is $1.5 million (preferably along with criminal indictments by the state where the tragedy occurred.)

Listed below is the 4th installment of major OSHA enforcement cases with penalties over $40,000

We have noted  before how OSHA press releases have been an effective and important tool to discourage employers injuring or killing workers by cutting corners and violating the law.  A dry list (below) is a rather poor substitute for a press release that can serve notice on employers across the country that OSHA will not tolerate violations of the law.  Press releases can also provide an educational tool for employers and workers who need more information on the hazards they face in the workplace.

Fortunately, where there are fatalities, there’s often enough information to put some meat on the bones, so if OSHA isn’t going to issue press releases, Confined Space will write its own for a couple of them:

OSHA News Release – Region 6

March 28, 2017

Energy Company Faces $45,00 Penalty in Death of Worker in a Flash Fire

A Texas company’s failure to control hydrocarbon vapors killed one worker, Javier Valerio,  and sent four others to the hospital with severe burns due to a flash fire while servicing a Venture Energy Services gas well head in Gonzales, Texas on October 5, 2016.

On March 28, OSHA issued four citations , totaling $45,642 for serious violations including a general duty clause violation for failure to prevent ignition of hydrocarbon vapors while depressurizing the well head. Venture had T installed an open top blow down tank , and vented the vapors into the atmosphere, where they could come into contact with with known ignition sources within 100 feet from the tank. Venture was also cited for of electrical and hand protection standards, as well as failure to provide adequate medical services and first aid.

“Gas extraction is a potentially hazardous operation and employers must ensure that they are implementing all measures to ensure that workers are safe,” said an OSHA spokesperson. “Failure to do so can result in the preventable death of workers.”

Workers in the oil and gas industries face the risk of fire and explosion due to ignition of flammable vapors or gases. Flammable gases, such as well gases, vapors, and hydrogen sulfide, can be released from wells, trucks, production equipment or surface equipment such as tanks and shale shakers. Ignition sources can include static, electrical energy sources, open flames, lightning, cigarettes, cutting and welding tools, hot surfaces, and frictional heat. Consult OSHA’s website for more information on preventing oil and gas drilling and extraction hazards, and the standards that cover these hazards.

 

OSHA News Release – Region 5

March 27, 2017

Stainless Steel Fabricator Issued $43,435 Fine In Death of Employee

When Nicholas Smith, 26, went in to clean up after a welding job on December 14, 2016, he had no idea that hazardous argon gas hadn’t dissipated. Smith suffocated to death at A&B Process Systems in Stratford, WI,  in a tightly enclosed area. Today, OSHA issued $43,435 against A&B Processing Systems for serious violations of OSHA’s confined spaces and chromium standards.

“Confined spaces are well known hazards in this industry,” said an OSHA spokesperson. “There is no excuse for not following safe working procedures and OSHA standards in these workplaces. Smith’s death could have been prevented.”

Deaths in confined spaces often occur because the atmosphere is oxygen-deficient, toxic or combustible, and he spaces are difficult to get into and out of. OSHA has extensive standards and educational materials that employers can use to prevent workers from dying or getting injured in confined spaces.  Small employers can also take advantage of OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program which provides free on-site consultations to small and medium size employers.

Great White Construction

And finally, while I don’t have enough information for a press release, also note below that Great White Construction, in Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Palm Coast, Florida has received three repeat violations totaling over $392,00 for failure to provide fall protection for its workers.  Great White inJacksonville also received a $184,00 in penalties in 2015 for fall protection violations, a citation that also involved a very informative press release:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Since 2013, 294 workers have been killed by falls, the leading cause of death in the construction trade. These incidents can often be prevented when employers use proper safety protections. Unfortunately for its employees, Great White Construction Inc. has repeatedly put the safety of its workers at risk, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found. In September and October 2014, Great White employees were seen working on roofs at two job sites in Jacksonville without fall protection. The contractor received six citations for safety violations at the sites on Queensway Drive and Melissa Ray Drive, the latest in its history of exposing its workers to fall hazards. Proposed penalties total $184,000.

“The crew leader told the inspector on-site that he was given proper equipment, training and knew the regulations, but chose to ignore them,” said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director in Jacksonville. “An employer cannot pick and choose when to follow safety standards, and OSHA will continue to cite violations and issue penalties when employers fail in their responsibility to protect workers.

Large Enforcement Cases through March 30, 2017

EstablishmentCitySt.Opening DateIssuance DateTotal Int'l PenaltyMore Info
TEXAS WILDLIFE SUPPLY, INC. BRADYTX2/21/20173/30/2017$74,785 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1212211.015
SIMMONS FOODS, INC.SILOAM SPRINGSAR12/6/20163/29/2017$95,063 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1197055.015
UNITED DAIRY, INC.CHARLESTONWV1/31/20173/29/2017$74,239 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1206614.015
VENTURE ENERGY SERVICESGONZALESTX10/6/20163/28/2017$45,632 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1182728.015
UCL, INC.TOLEDOOH10/19/20163/28/2017$48,167 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1185007.015
INTERLAKE MECALUX, INC.MELROSE PARKIL11/16/20163/28/2017$49,798 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1191720.015
INTERSTATE PAPER, LLCRICEBOROGA11/17/20163/27/2017$119,901 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1192316.015
A&B PROCESS SYSTEMS, INC.STRATFORDWI12/14/20163/27/2017$43,458 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1197139.015
CONVERTING TECHNOLOGY, INC.MENOMONEE FALLSWI10/4/20163/24/2017$115,714 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1181334.015
TABLE TALK PIES, INC.SHREWSBURYMA10/19/20163/24/2017$122,948 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1184995.015
DSM STEEL ERECTORS INCUNION CITYNJ11/3/20163/24/2017$40,560 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1193666.015
CLEVELAND CITY FORGE, INC.WELLINGTONOH1/24/20173/24/2017$93,724 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1205094.015
GREAT WHITE CONSTRUCTION, INC.JACKSONVILLEFL10/4/20163/22/2017$138,699 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1181361.015
GREAT WHITE CONSTRUCTION, INC.SAINT AUGUSTINEFL10/14/20163/22/2017$126,749 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1183753.015
GREAT WHITE CONSTRUCTION, INC.PALM COASTFL11/5/20163/22/2017$126,749 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1190635.015
BECERRA PLASTERINGROUND ROCKTX2/8/20173/21/2017$43,459 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1209159.015
WASTEQUIP MANUFACTURING COMPANY LLCBEEVILLETX11/8/20163/20/2017$50,700 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1190204.015
HARSCO INDUSTRIAL IKGCHANNELVIEWTX2/22/20173/20/2017$45,633 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1213181.015
AJM PACKAGING CORPJOPLINMO10/25/20163/15/2017$56,132 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1186844.015
WILLBROS CONSTRUCTION (U.S), LLC-DELAWARE DAMONTX10/19/20163/14/2017$83,118 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1184854.015
SEA-3, INC.NEWINGTONNH9/21/20163/9/2017$45,270 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1179264.015
MAMMOTH ELECTRIC INCCOMPTONCA9/12/20163/7/2017$71,750 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1176788.015
J & J SNACK FOODS SALES CORP.PENNSAUKENNJ9/10/20163/7/2017$50,700 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1177700.015
LITHIA HYUNDAI OF ANCHORAGEANCHORAGEAK11/15/20163/7/2017$59,500 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1191326.015
CITY OF BAYONNEBAYONNENJ2/22/20173/7/2017$53,900 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1213721.015
WILLIAMS FIELD SERVICES COMPANY LLCOPALWY9/14/20163/6/2017$62,000 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1177314.015
PEGASSUS CONSTRUCTION INCSPOKANEWA9/19/20163/6/2017$57,400 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1179055.015
CLOVIS LAKES ASSOCIATES LLCCLOVISCA12/13/20163/3/2017$55,500 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1213501.015
GALLO VINEYARDS, INCLIVINGSTONCA10/17/20163/2/2017$40,500 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1184377.015
MR BUILD HOME IMPROVEMENT COGARDENACA8/31/20162/24/2017$46,470 https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1174791.015
Enforcement OSHA Press Releases

5 Comments

  1. Jordan,

    Regarding the quotes attributable to your “OSHA spokesperson(s),” are these spokespersons real people currently employed at OSHA, or are you just making up quotes out of thin air? Or do you claim to still speak for the agency?

    1. No, I certainly don’t speak for the agency. Things would be far different if I did.

      I’m making up quotes out of thin air. The point of this post is that if OSHA isn’t doing press releases, I will. So I’m fashioning press releases based on the information I can collect.

  2. Gotcha. May I then, start issuing press releases about you, without your consent? You’re not doing them, after all.
    I was thinking along the lines of:
    “Jordan Barab’s Power Breakfast: Two Hard-Boiled Eggs and a Glass of Orange Juice.”
    “Jordan Barab: ‘This Trump Guy is Nuts!'”
    “Jordan Barab Wonders Why CVS Coupon Only Hits his Phone After He Makes Purchase.”
    “Jordan Barab Laments Lack of Really Good Labor Union Movies on Netflix (No Norma Rae? Seriously?)”

    1. I think I was pretty clear what I was doing and why I was doing it. But hey, knock yourself out. (And that CVS coupon thing is absolutely true.)

  3. Would be great to have state & fed agencies listed, as well. I suppose they aren’t listed because OSHA won’t fine them. However, OSHA receives complaints from employees of fed/state agencies, including grantees. It would be nice to see all of the data across all sectors equitably.
    I’ve been employed across all sectors. No agency should be exempt from violation fines. Just because the funding source is public, doesn’t mean the agency should be exempt; a violation recognized by OSHA is likely due to the worker having just cause in filing the complaint in the first place. State/fed workers should have equal rights, but if our enforcement does not include fines, it may not be taken as seriously by these agencies who clearly are not afraid to continue abusing state/fed workers, if or when that may or may not happen.

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