From October 2009 to September 2010, OSHA issued citations in 164 significant cases where penalties reached $100,000 or more. OSHA found conditions warranting use of its egregious citation policy in 20 of these inspections. In a so-called egregious case, an employer is cited on a per-instance basis under the same standard rather than grouping similar violations for penalty purposes. The result is a considerably higher penalty intended to serve as a deterrent. Egregious treatment is often used when an employer exhibits deliberately violative conduct or indifference to employee safety and health or the law. Many of these cases spring from inspections of tragic worker fatalities, worksite catastrophes (such as explosions or chemical releases) or worker injuries or illnesses. This number of significant and egregious cases is more than OSHA issued during any similar period in the last decade. Egregious cases during this period include the BP Products North America oil refinery in Texas City, Texas; the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Conn.; and the Cooperative Plus grain handling facility in Burlington, Wis.
The increase in significant and egregious cases demonstrates OSHA’s commitment to aggressively enforcing its standards when employers show indifference to protecting the safety, health and lives of their workers. The increase results from better inspection targeting, more follow-up inspections and the addition of more compliance officers. In addition, inspectors are issuing a higher percentage of citations for violations that seriously endanger workers or show an employer’s willful disregard for their safety. Also, many referrals to other facilities within the same company lead to more significant cases, such as the serious electrical and other hazards found at many U.S. Postal Service facilities across the country.
In a complaint filed earlier this year, OSHA alleged that “USPS’s actions demonstrate an enterprise-wide policy that resulted in ongoing systemic electrical work safety violations. USPS failed to adequately train workers in recognizing electrical hazards and how to work safely around such hazards, and did not provide workers with the appropriate tools and personal protective equipment to avoid injury or death while working around and on electrical equipment.”
“Even though it was aware of the hazards, USPS failed to institute the necessary measures to protect its workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.
“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 assure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.”
OSHA rolls out presidential initiative to improve federal worker safety
The Department of Labor held an event at its Washington, D.C., headquarters Oct. 13 to roll out President Barack Obama’s new initiative to protect federal workers from on-the-job injuries and illnesses. The Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment Initiative follows two former government programs in place since the mid 1990s. The new government-wide POWER Initiative sets aggressive target goals to help ensure federal workers are provided with safe and healthful work environments, as well as the support they need after experiencing a serious work-related injury or illness.
source: OSHA via several news releases