The True Cost Of Work Related Injuries – An infographic by the team at SafetyVideos.com
The True Cost Of Work Related Injuries – An infographic by the team at SafetyVideos.com
Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein
Soon after beginning their cleanup of a fume-filled tanker car at an Omaha, Nebraska rail maintenance yard, Adrian LaPour and Dallas Foulk were dead.
An explosion that April 2015 afternoon trapped LaPour in a flash fire inside the car and hurled Foulk out the top to his death.
Six months later their employer, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, was hammered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration with seven citations for “egregious, willful” workplace violations, along with 26 other charges. The agency proposed fines of nearly $1 million. To top it off, OSHA announced that it was tossing the company into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, or SVEP.
Six years into the severe violator program – arguably the broadest workplace safety initiative launched during the Obama administration – more than 500 businesses are on its list of bad actors. They include corporate giants such as DuPont and International Paper, each with tens of thousands of employees, as well as more than 300 construction firms, many with fewer than a dozen workers.
Just last week an auto parts maker in Alabama, Ajiin USA, was labeled a severe violator and hit with proposed fines of $2.5 million related to the June death of a 20-year old worker. Regina Allen Elsea, who was two weeks away from getting married, was crushed when a robotic machine she was doing maintenance on abruptly restarted. Ajiin, which supplies automakers Kia and Hyundai, said in a statement it will continue to cooperate with OSHA and that “safety has always been our guiding principle.”
Along with subjecting employers to a form of public shaming, the severe violator program helps OSHA work out settlements intended to force companies to clean up their job safety practices. The program, which replaced a George W. Bush administration initiative that an inspector general’s audit derided as ineffectual, also can result in extra inspections, sometimes at multiple sites, and force companies to hire new safety personnel. The effort, though, faces an uncertain future under the Trump administration.
The severe violator list represents an attempt to deal with an overwhelming regulatory challenge. With OSHA and its state counterparts relying on fewer than 1,850 inspectors to monitor about 8 million workplaces, it would take federal officials 145 years to inspect each job site once, union researchers estimate. The aim of the list is to let OSHA’s limited staff zero in on some of the worst offenders.
David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA, said in an interview with FairWarning that “even if we doubled our inspectors, we would still be able to only get to a small portion of employers. And so we need tools like SVEP, which extend our capabilities and encourage more employers to do the right thing even without inspections.”
But the targeted nature of the program creates a Catch-22. The death of a worker is clearly the worst thing that can happen at a job site. Yet with about 4,800 workplace fatalities a year nationally, putting every company with a death on the severe violator list would overwhelm OSHA and defeat the goal of tougher enforcement for a subset of the worst offenders. For that reason, the death of a worker will put a company on the list only if the circumstances are particularly flagrant or reflect a pattern of reckless conduct. In 2015 only one out of every roughly 200 employers with an on-the-job fatality landed on the list.
At the same time, it’s not certain that the program has effectively deterred recalcitrant employers, as OSHA lacks any comprehensive assessment of its performance. For evidence of the impact, OSHA officials point to settlements they have reached with companies on the list. “There hasn’t been a really good objective evaluation,” said MIT Professor Thomas A. Kochan, co-director of MIT’s Institute for Work and Employment Research.
One critic, John Newquist, (a LinkedIn connection of mine) and former OSHA official in Chicago, said his sense is that among employers, “There’s no fear of OSHA at all.”
Michaels, who will leave the agency by the January 20, 2017, presidential inauguration, expressed hope that the Trump administration won’t dismantle the severe violator effort or other enforcement initiatives. He said tough enforcement protects responsible employers because it “levels the playing field” between them and competitors who skimp on safety. Still, the anti-regulation views of Trump cabinet picks including Andrew Puzder, the president-elect’s choice for labor secretary, are raising expectations of cutbacks in workplace enforcement.
Nebraska Railcar –- currently the target, several sources say, of a Justice Department criminal investigation of last year’s explosion –- highlights how long it can take a wayward company to be put into the severe violator program. Jacob Mack, who worked for the company in 2013, says he told OSHA about brutal conditions long before the deadly blast. “Not a day goes by I don’t remember the hell there,” Mack said.
The company wasn’t listed until after the explosion even though it, as well as other businesses controlled by Nebraska Railcar’s majority owner, Steven Braithwaite, had repeatedly been cited by OSHA dating back to 2005. That includes a 2013 citation involving a fire risk from oil storage tanks. Nebraska Railcar stayed off the list, though, partly because its prior violations didn’t involve hazards the agency deemed high-priority, such as falls, amputations, cave-ins and exposure to toxic chemicals.
(Nebraska Railcar is contesting its current OSHA citations, as are other companies cited in this story that haven’t reached a settlement with the agency. Nebraska Railcar and most of the other companies have not responded to requests for comment.)
Case Farms, a leading poultry processor with plants in Ohio and North Carolina, finally landed on the list in 2015 after being cited for more than 350 violations over a 25-year period, according to OSHA. The case, which processes nearly 3 million chickens a week for fast food chains and supermarkets, last year was fined $861,500 for 55 violations, including amputation and fall hazards, at its Winesburg, Ohio, plant.
Sometimes disaster has struck even after companies were put in the program. One such case, in October, spurred a public outcry in Boston. Two laborers working for Atlantic Drain Service died after being trapped in a trench that was inundated by water, dirt, and debris after a pipe burst. Atlantic Drain had been on the severe violator list since 2012.
The October deaths “were entirely preventable,” The Boston Globe wrote in an editorial, “had city and state officials taken minimal steps to investigate the construction company before issuing permits.”
Whatever the shortcomings of the severe violator program, labor advocates say, the wide range of companies it snares -– and the number and gravity of their violations -– underscore its importance and the need to protect workers from callous bosses. OSHA’s other options are limited. The agency lacks the authority to shut down dangerous workplaces and its fines generally remain modest despite an increase that took effect in August.
“OSHA is one-eighth the size of the EPA, it has the lowest penalties of almost any government agency – but even though it is small, it is critical that enforcement is maintained,” said Deborah Berkowitz, the OSHA chief of staff from 2009 to 2013. The severe violator list, she conceded, is “not an end-all tool,” but an important tool.
An example OSHA officials point to is Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest retailer of home furnishings. It was listed last year after being cited for 38 violations, 12 of them willful, and assessed $1.76 million in fines. Inspections showed more than 1,000 work-related injuries in less than four years at its plant in Arcadia, Wisconsin.
Over 100 of the injuries took place on similar woodworking machines, including a July 2014 incident in which a worker lost three fingers. In June, the privately held firm settled the case, agreeing to pay penalties of $1.75 million and to adopt safety measures in Arcadia and at three other plants in Wisconsin and Mississippi.
Some corporate defense lawyers say being labeled a “severe violator” is such a black eye that it strongly motivates companies to avoid trouble with OSHA. However, they criticize the program for lacking due process, because companies are labeled severe violators even as they appeal citations.
“You are dumped into SVEP essentially the day that the citations are issued and a citation is nothing more than an allegation,” said Eric J. Conn, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in OSHA defense cases. “Having the federal agency that is responsible for safety and health branding that employer as a bad actor … absolutely has significant consequences to the employer’s business.”
In the meantime, corporate lawyers say, competitors or critics can take advantage of the situation. If residents near a listed site “don’t like your company, to begin with, this is more ammunition they can use to go to a zoning board to block permits for expansion,” said Adele Abrams, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney.
On-the-job deaths can keep companies in the program for years. DuPont was listed after four workers at its La Porte, Texas, chemical plant died of asphyxiation in 2014. The disaster occurred after a supply line released more than 20,000 pounds of deadly methyl mercaptan gas. The company, which manufactures pesticides at the Texas plant, was assessed $273,000 for eight OSHA violations. DuPont said it couldn’t comment because it is appealing its case.
AMF Bowling Centers, Inc. has been on the list since 2011, when a worker at its lanes in Addison, Texas, was fatally pulled into an automatic pin-setting machine while trying to clear a jam. OSHA had previously cited AMF in 2007 and 2008 for failing to provide proper machine guarding on pinsetters. The case was settled, with AMF agreeing to pay more than $90,000 in penalties.
Oil services giant Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. was listed following the death of welder Dustin Payne, a 28-year-old former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was killed in a 2014 explosion when vapors ignited inside a tank he was welding in North Dakota.
Houston-based Nabors, which boasts of operating the world’s largest land-based drilling rig fleet, was assessed $97,200 in fines and charged with a willful violation for not having thoroughly cleaned the tank of oil residue before sending Payne in.
“Dustin Payne and his fiancée should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him,” Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck, N.D., said in a news release.
International Paper Co. was added to the list last year after a 57-year-old mechanic was killed in a fire while replacing filter bags in machinery at its Ticonderoga, N.Y., plant. The bags contained combustible dust that ignited.
In assessing $211,000 in fines, OSHA said the company had failed to supply fire-resistant clothing or adequate training. The firm had previously been cited for failing to conduct annual inspections of ignitable equipment at company sites in Chicago and Newark, Ohio.
Although big companies draw the most widespread attention, the employers most commonly labeled severe violators are small construction firms with high emphasis hazards related to falls or excavation cave-ins. Yet small construction firms often elude the follow-up inspections that are supposed to be a key feature of the program.
A FairWarning analysis of the current list of 523 severe violators found that 167 had not been re-inspected, and almost all were construction firms. In many cases, the firms had shut down their worksites or went out of business before inspectors could return.
Eric Frumin, safety and health director of the union coalition Change to Win, said given the way the industry operates, OSHA can be “powerless to find and vigorously confront the worst actors.”
A trench collapse last year in New York that put a construction firm on the list also led to criminal charges. The cave-in collapse in lower Manhattan buried Carlos Moncayo, 22, under tons of dirt. His employer, Sky Materials Corp. of Maspeth, was fined $140,000 and listed for willfully failing to provide cave-in protection
Last month, Sky’s site foreman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Moncayo, one of at least 18 New York City construction workers who died on the job in 2015. The project’s general contractor, Harco Construction LLC, was convicted of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in June.
Deadly incidents also have brought rail tank car cleaning companies into the program. At Nebraska Railcar, the disaster came soon after the workers returned from a lunch break and started digging out thick residue from an oil tanker. The lone survivor among the three employees working on the tanker, Joe Coschka, 36, said he was just outside the car, lowering buckets of the blacktop like material into a 55-gallon drum.
Coschka said the odor from inside the tanker was powerful, and that an air monitor was beeping. Even so, he said he assumed a supervisor who should have known better than him whether the air was a hazard, should have informed workers to evacuate the tank car immediately.
Soon Coschka heard a loud hiss, and then sparks started shooting out of the tanker. The next thing he remembers is dangling from the side of the car, still attached to his safety harness, with a fire raging inside. “And I knew Adrian was in there, and Dallas was looking pretty bad on the ground. I just knew I had to get out of there,” said Coschka. He managed to scramble to safety despite suffering back and shoulder injuries.
Coschka remains haunted by the disaster. Although he sometimes blames himself for not questioning the foreman who sent the workers into the tanker car, most of his anger is aimed at Braithwaite, the main owner of the business. He said he wishes the tougher OSHA actions had come sooner. Referring to the years of citations against Braithwaite’s companies, Coshka added: “It’s just sad because this guy dropped the ball so many times and he just keeps getting away with it.” Coschka had started at Nebraska Railcar only a month earlier.
Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein
(Includes citations issued starting January 1, 2015. Cases are updated weekly. There is a posting delay to ensure the parties have been notified.)
Click on link to view States Map and Violations by State : https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html
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September has arrived. That can only mean one thing: it’s time for college football!
Labor Day weekend offered several high-profile games for our viewing pleasure. Number-one ranked Alabama won one of those contests, with the Crimson Tide overwhelming Southern California by the score of 52-6. Alabama looked well-prepared and disciplined in its lopsided victory over a ranked opponent, showing once again why its coach Nick Saban is likely the best in college football.
Coach Saban’s unprecedented success – having won five career national championships, including four out of the last seven – is the result of his unparalleled work ethic and a commitment to excellence even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company would envy. Indeed, his processes transfer well to the corporate world and some companies attempt to mimic what Saban has developed at Alabama. His attention to detail could create a successful environment at any business.
Employers can learn from Saban’s methodical determination to succeed. His model provides employers an example on how to, among many other things, institute programs to handle adversity and challenges that arise in the workplace.
Following Saban’s routine of working hard, staying focused, teaching discipline, and developing character could help any employer prepare for unexpected events like a workplace accident or visit by a government compliance agency, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Given what we know about the habits that led to his success as a football coach, here’s how Saban – if employed as a safety supervisor – might handle the difficult tasks of developing a culture of workplace safety and responding to an OSHA inspection:
Pre-Game Preparation- Before OSHA Arrives
1. Be Prepared. No coach prepares like Nick Saban. Saban rarely loses a game for which he had additional time to prepare. In fact, he has never lost a national championship game, which generally does not take place until several weeks after the end of the regular season. Safety Supervisor Saban would have his company extremely prepared for any government agency visit, including an OSHA inspection. He would take the proactive approach of creating robust safety programs, rigorous training techniques, and a culture of accountability.He would not wait until after OSHA arrived to take these steps.
2. Challenge the (Safety) Program. Coach Saban loves for his team to play top-notch opponents, especially early in the season. Stiff competition challenges his team and only makes it better. He currently employs 21 consultants – in addition to his coaching staff – to analyze the quality of his program at Alabama. Safety Supervisor Saban would have consultants from top safety companies and safety professionals from competitor companies review his safety program and give feedback on how to make it better. He would listen to and learn from these consultants in an effort to develop new techniques and continuously improve safety in his workplace.
First Half – The Opening Conference with OSHA
3. Take Charge and Speak for the (Safety) Team. Coach Saban prohibits his assistant coaches from speaking to the media on behalf of the program. If you have a question about the Alabama football team, you ask Coach Saban. If OSHA arrived for an inspection, Safety Supervisor Saban would instruct his employees not to speak to any OSHA representative until he arrived. OSHA could only meet with the head of the safety program prior to beginning its inspection. This would ensure proper, and knowledgeable communication is delivered on behalf of the company.
4. Know the (OSHA) Rules. Coach Saban understands the rules of college football. In fact, he often questions why other coaches aren’t following them, or why certain rules should be changed. He is a student of the game. Safety Supervisor Saban would know not only the OSHA safety regulations but the procedures OSHA must follow when conducting an inspection. He would understand, for instance, that regardless of the reason OSHA appears at your door, if you consent to the inspection without limiting the review to the stated reason OSHA is there (e.g., hazard alleged in a complaint), most arguments relating to the scope of the inspection are lost. Saban would know what OSHA can and cannot do, and require the agency to follow its procedures.
Second Half – OSHA’s Walk-Through and Interviews
5. (Make OSHA) Focus on the Task at Hand. Coach Saban refuses to allow certain team personnel to speak on the headsets worn by coaches during the game. He believes any additional conversation is unnecessary and a waste of time. He also requires his players to focus on each individual play and attempt to execute it without error. Saban generally prohibits players and coaches from discussing the score at any point during the game. He believes that if you take care of each play, the score will take care of itself. While walking through his facility with OSHA during an inspection, Saban would require OSHA to focus solely on the reason why it is there. If OSHA is there for a complaint on a press machine, OSHA would inspect the press machine- nothing else. There would be no discussion of any other matters.
6. Tell the Truth and Don’t Make Excuses. Coach Saban doesn’t like excuses. Win or lose; he generally gives the other team credit for their excellent play; he doesn’t blame the referees.He also requires his players, to be honest. Saban believes honesty is a crucial character trait. Safety Supervisor Saban would require his employees, to tell the truth, if interviewed by OSHA. If there is a safety issue, he would instruct them to not hide it or make excuses. Honesty is the only policy.
Post-Game – After the Penalties
7. Learn from Mistakes. Saban doesn’t always win. When he loses, however, he allows that experience to be an opportunity to learn. Rarely does Saban lose to the same team twice in one season, or more than one year in a row. If Safety Supervisor Saban received a citation, he may contest it if plausible defenses existed. More importantly, however, he would learn from the experience and rigorously reassess and evaluate his safety program with respect to the alleged hazard in order to improve.
8. Above All, Be Professional. Coach Saban is a professional. He generally refrains from yelling or swearing on the sidelines, and treats others with respect in both victory and defeat. Safety Supervisor Saban would understand that employers and OSHA are on the same page from a mission standpoint. They want to keep employees safe. Being abrasive or unprofessional is not the demeanor that will help accomplish this goal. Saban would realize the importance of remaining cordial throughout the inspection process.
Coach Saban’s success is the product of habits that could produce results on and off the football field. Employers can learn from accomplished leaders like him.
When determining how to improve your safety program, consider what has led to success for others, even if that success occurred outside your industry. Think outside the box. This innovation and critical evaluation will lead to results.
If you hire contractors, perform contract work, or work at a multi-employer work site, it can be difficult to determine what your safety responsibilities are. Use this infographic to gain a better understanding of how multi-employer rules apply in common situations and what you should look for when hiring a contractor.
Contractors: Who’s Responsible for Safety? by Safety.BLR.com
Discover how near misses can add up to major accidents. “No Injury, No Accident?” dramatically shows employees how to recognize and prevent serious injuries or fatal accidents before they occur. Based on the pioneering work of W. H. Heinrich and his renowned “Heinrich Triangle,” the program demonstrates how the odds of a serious or fatal accident occurring emerges from a series of typical injury-fee accidents. “No Injury, No Accidents?” also shows employees the importance of reporting the accident, investigating how it happened, and eliminating the cause. It’s an essential message for every safety program.
Note: The first 23 seconds of this 18 Minute video are a little garbled.
ADDISON, Ill. ‒ Four months after federal safety investigators cited his employer for failing to provide workers with fall protection at a United Parcel Service facility in Addison, a 42-year-old employee of Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services, fell 22 feet to his death at the same site.
On July 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the employer for three egregious willful violations for exposing workers to falls over 6 feet, after its investigation of the Feb. 9, 2016, fatality. OSHA also cited three repeated and three serious safety violations.
“A man is dead because this employer decided to break the law over and over again. Before this tragedy, OSHA cited this contractor twice for exposing workers to fall hazards, including at the same site just four months earlier,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor of Occupational Safety and Health. “OSHA is asking companies contracting with Material Handling Systems to take strong steps to ensure that this employer protects its employees, and terminate its contracts if this employer continues to violate OSHA regulations. Material Handling Systems employer must demonstrate it can work safely and stop injuring its employees.”
OSHA also found Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical:
– Exposed other workers to falls of up to 22 feet as they hoisted conveyor equipment while working on raised surfaces with unprotected sides. Failed to determine whether walking and working surfaces could structurally support employees.
– Allowed workers to use a combustible polyethylene tarp as a welding curtain, which created a serious fire hazard.
OSHA cited Material Handling Systems most recently for fall protection violations in October 2015 at the same jobsite. In 2014, OSHA cited the company for similar violations after an employee suffered serious injuries in a fall in Keasby, New Jersey. The employer also received fall protection citations in 2009 in Oregon and 2012 in Florida. The company’s workers’ compensation carrier is Old Republic Insurance Company of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services removes and installs high-speed conveyor systems. In this case, the company was working under a multi-million contract with United Parcel Service to dismantle existing conveyor systems and install new, high-speed conveyors at UPS’s Addison facility.
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services faces total proposed penalties of $320,400. View current citations here.
Preventable falls account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths in the construction industry. Federal safety and health officials are determined to reduce the number of preventable, fall-related deaths in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters, and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.
OSHA’s ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers and train employees to use fall protection equipment properly.
Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s North Aurora office at 630-896-8700.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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Release Number: 16-1572-CHI