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January 10, 2024
OSHA enforcement roundup: Spotlight on recent cases

Corn milling company fined $1.8 million
OSHA entered into a settlement agreement with a corn milling company in Wisconsin after a May 2017 explosion that killed five workers and injured more than a dozen others. In addition to a monetary penalty, the company has agreed to make extensive safety and health improvements at the facility, including:

  • Developing a corporatewide safety and health management system within 6 months;
  • Meeting with OSHA at least yearly to discuss safety and health issues;
  • Working with third-party experts to ensure mechanical integrity of key pieces of equipment;
  • Conducting hazard analyses on grain dust and the need for flame-resistant personal protective garments;
  • Providing equipment and training related to combustible dust housekeeping and mechanical integrity equipment inspections, tests, and preventive maintenance;
  • Developing a management-of-change program and procedure overseen by a qualified person knowledgeable in the fire and deflagration hazards of agricultural or food dust;
  • Reviewing changes to grain processing equipment;
  • Creating an incident reporting and investigation system;
  • Conducting emergency planning and response training; and
  • Training employees on the updated safety and health management system within 30 days of implementation.

Penalty: $1.8 million

Repeat trenching hazards lead to seven-figure fine
A Minnesota construction contractor was again found endangering employees in June 2023 as they replaced a residential water main and 20 separate curb stop valves for house connections. The contractor previously signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in 2021 that included a promise to protect its employees from potentially deadly trenching and excavation hazards. For the June 2023 violations, OSHA cited the company for six instance-by-instance repeat violations for exposing workers to cave-in hazards by not using adequate protective systems. OSHA also identified five instance-by-instance repeat violations for not providing a safe means to exit and enter trenches. In at least two instances, OSHA noted that the company failed to move spoil piles at least 2 feet away from the excavation's edge and didn’t provide workers with required head protection at least 3 times. In total, OSHA cited the company for 16 repeat violations and 1 serious violation.
Penalty: $1.8 million

Company cited for machine hazards
Following the death of a teen machine operator, OSHA cited a Wisconsin sawmill for 8 willful, 6 repeat, 29 serious, and 4 other-than-serious violations of federal safety and health regulations. In June 2023, a 16-year-old worker became trapped in a stick stacker machine as he tried to unjam it. The worker remained trapped until he was found and freed, then was transported to the hospital, where he passed away 2 days later. OSHA determined that the company failed to train teenage and adult workers in safety procedures to prevent dangerous equipment from moving during service and maintenance tasks. OSHA found minors exposed to these dangerous hazards, which immediately led to an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division. The day after the worker’s death, the mill’s operator terminated all the children’s jobs. OSHA investigators also found fall, machine guarding, and electrical hazard violations at the sawmill.
Penalty: $1.4 million

‘Severe violator’ fined again for fall hazards
An Ohio-based contractor with an extensive history of exposing workers to deadly falls entered into a settle agreement with OSHA and was issued 12 citations—6 egregious-willful, 5 repeat, and 1 serious. The citations followed a March 2022 inspection that was conducted after OSHA received a complaint that alleged the company didn’t provide fall protection to workers replacing a roof atop a two-story office building. OSHA cited the contractor for failing to ensure the use of fall protection and safety glasses, allowing unsafe use of portable ladders, and failing to provide training to employees on fall hazards. As part of the settlement agreement, the company must also employ enhanced abatement measures.
Penalty: $730,000

Machine shop cited for safety and health hazards
Following a DOL workplace safety inspection at a Texas manufacturing company, OSHA found the employer willfully exposed workers to the risks of amputation and permanent hearing loss. Conducted under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program (NEP) on amputations in the manufacturing industries, the inspection identified 58 violations, including 2 willful safety violations and 1 willful health violation. OSHA issued the willful safety citations because the company didn’t have machine guards in place to protect workers from the potential for amputations and other injuries related to nip points, rotating parts, and flying chips and sparks. The agency issued a willful health citation for the company’s failure to establish and maintain an audiometric testing program and make testing available to employees exposed to excessive noise.
Penalty: $596,221

Employee suffers fatal fall
A New York contractor was cited by OSHA after an investigation found the contractor could have prevented a roofer’s fatal fall by following legally required safeguards designed to prevent falls. OSHA determined the deceased worker and other employees were installing metal decking on a flat industrial roof when the decedent fell through an opening to a concrete floor nearly 20 feet below. OSHA’s investigators learned the company didn’t provide the employees on the roof with protection against fall hazards, such as guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, positioning devices, or fall restraint systems. The work being completed fell under OSHA’s steel erection standard, and the company failed to train each employee on recognizing and mitigating fall hazards before conducting the steel erection work. OSHA issued six willful violations for the fall hazards—one violation for each exposed worker—and one serious violation for not training the workers.
Penalty: $522,527

Machine hazards lead to fatal injuries
OSHA cited a manufacturing company in Wisconsin for two willful safety violations following an employee’s death after becoming caught in a machine’s rotating rollers in May 2023. Specifically, OSHA investigators found the company failed to use procedures for the control of hazardous energy and didn’t implement energy control application steps when employees set up the production line by threading through powered rollers by hand. They also determined the plant allowed workers to circumvent machine guarding to cut and remove wrapped fibers from rotating powered rollers and to remove fibers from the floor, which exposed them to caught-in hazards.
Penalty: $312,518

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