Review committees

Court order allows DOL claim for enterprise-wide abatement to move forward

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Washington – In what OSHA is calling a “precedent-setting” decision, a judge has determined that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission may have the authority to order enterprise-wide abatements of hazards.

OSHA previously had inspected Central Transport’s Billerica, MA, worksite and found several violations of the Powered Industrial Trucks Standard, prompting the Department of Labor to request OSHRC to issue an order compelling the employer to comply with the standard at all of its locations. But Central Transport, which is contesting the citations issued in the case, asserted that the Occupational Safety and Health Act does not permit such a move and called on Administrative Law Judge Carol A. Baumerich to strike the claim.

On Dec. 7, Baumerich denied Central Transport’s motion by stating that a line in the OSH Act – “other appropriate relief” – provides the basis for DOL’s claim for enterprise-wide abatement to proceed to trial.

Central Transport’s motion to strike the claim has occurred very early in the case – formal discovery has not begun, and no hearings have been conducted. “The decision regarding that claim should be made upon a complete record following full discovery by all parties,” wrote the judge, who characterized Central Transport’s assertion as a “novel legal theory.”

The decision moves the case forward and will allow OSHA to present evidence on whether the facts in the case merit enterprise-wide abatement.

In a Dec. 23 press release, OSHA officials praised Baumerich’s order, and stressed the need for an employer to correct hazards at its worksites.

“When an employer has hazards occurring at multiple locations, common sense and reasonable worker protection law enforcement both dictate that the employer take corrective action to safeguard the health and well-being of employees at all its worksites,” Kim Stille, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England, said in the release.