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.