OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations for 2016
This list of OSHA’s proposed monetary penalties in fiscal year 2016 comprises penalties stemming from a single incident or related incidents in which one or more companies are alleged to have failed to adhere to safe work practices. This failure puts workers at risk – in some cases fatally. The following information is gathered from OSHA enforcement press releases.
Note: These fines represent proposed penalties issued by federal OSHA between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016. Dollar amounts may be reduced as part of a settlement agreement or litigation.
Company: Sunfield Inc.
Hebron, OH (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Auto parts manufacturer
Inspection trigger: Worker injuries
Event: Federal investigators inspected Sunfield’s Hebron, OH, plant after two workers sustained severe injuries in January and February. The result of the inspection was one of the largest OSHA penalties ever filed against an auto parts manufacturer in the United States. OSHA stated that Sunfield, which has a long history of safety violations, failed to disconnect machinery from a power supply and prevent sudden movement before maintenance and service. The company also failed to train workers on how to safely operate machine presses and did not service and maintain them as needed, according to OSHA.
Major citations: Sunfield Inc. was cited for 46 egregious willful, two willful, one repeat and eight serious safety violations. The company was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“Sunfield has shown a total disregard for its workers, the kind rarely seen since the darkest days of the past when callous industrialists ruled and put profits before human suffering and common decency. This has to stop.” – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Fraser Shipyards Inc.
Location: Superior, WI (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Shipyard operator
Inspection trigger: Multiple complaints
Event: OSHA determined that Fraser Shipyards' management knew about the presence of lead and asbestos as workers retrofitted a ship's engine room. The agency's sampling results determined that 14 workers had blood lead levels as much as 20 times greater than the exposure limit.
Major citations: Fraser Shipyards was cited for 14 willful egregious health violations for each instance of a worker being overexposed to lead. OSHA cited five additional willful violations for the company's failure to conduct monitoring to assess lead exposures, failure to implement a lead compliance program or respiratory protection program for lead, and failure to train workers on hazards related to lead and asbestos.
"Fraser Shipyards accepted a contract with a very low profit margin and penalties for delayed completion, but could not meet the schedule without endangering its workers. This employer was unwilling to pay the necessary costs to protect employees from lead exposure." – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Dollar General Corp.
Location: O'Fallon, MO (OSHA Region 7)
Business type: Retail chain
Inspection trigger: Complaints
Event: OSHA penalized Dollar General nine times during fiscal year 2016 – the most of any employer. The largest penalty of $163,000 followed an inspection in which OSHA discovered a 5-foot-high, 15-foot-long pile of trash blocking an emergency exit. Inspectors also found circuit breakers that were not labeled, stairs that lacked railings, exit signs posted at a door that was not an exit, lack of training on fire extinguisher use, and other safety violations.
Major citations: Dollar General's largest penalty stemmed from two willful, six serious and one other-than-serious violation.
"Dollar General stores nationwide have repeatedly been cited for exposing their workers to hazards posed by overstocking issues, while promising time and again to take corrective action, yet workers continue to be exposed to unnecessary hazards. It is the employer's responsibility to find and fix these hazards and OSHA will continue to hold this employer accountable." – Josh Bernstein, acting OSHA area director in Fort Worth, TX
Company: Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services
Location: Omaha, NE (OSHA Region 7)
Business type: Cleaning company specializing in railcars that contain food-grade products, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, used oil and other products
Inspection trigger: Two worker fatalities, one worker injury
Event: Federal investigators inspected the site after an April 14, 2015, explosion killed two workers and injured another. According to the agency, the following events preceded the blast: A check of the air quality inside a railcar indicated a serious risk of an explosion, but the company ignored these risks and sent two workers into the railcar; failed to monitor the air continuously for explosive hazards as required; and failed to provide workers with emergency retrieval equipment or properly fitted respirators.
Major citations: Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services was cited for seven egregious willful, two repeat, 20 serious and one other-than-serious safety and health violation. OSHA also placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Our hearts go out to the families of these workers, whose deaths were so senseless and preventable. This isn't the first time this employer put its workers' lives at risk – but OSHA will do everything in our power to ensure it is the last." – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Berlin Builders Inc.
Location: Cinnaminson, NJ (OSHA Region 3)
Business type: Residential construction contractor
Inspection trigger: Planned inspection
Event: Inspectors determined that workers were exposed to serious fall hazards on construction sites in which Berlin Builders had been contracted to work. OSHA cited the company for fall hazards on scaffold platforms and a lack of training for those hazards; failure to provide and use fall protection; and failure to inspect the jobsite for fall- and fire-related hazards. Berlin Builders was cited four times during fiscal 2016.
Major citations: In its largest penalty, Berlin Builders was cited for two willful, nine repeat, eight serious and one other-than-serious violation at four worksites across Delaware and Pennsylvania.
"Berlin Builders is a serial violator that callously refuses to take even the most basic steps to protect workers from falls and other serious hazards in construction, an industry among the nation's most hazardous. Approximately four in 10 construction workers die in falls at work. It is vital that construction companies take responsibility for protecting their workers from preventable injuries and serious hazards."– Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia
Company: U.S. Postal Service
Location: Sandston, VA (OSHA Region 3)
Business type: Mail sorting and delivery
Inspection trigger: Worker complaint
Event: OSHA cited the U.S. Postal Service eight times during fiscal year 2016. Penalties ranged from $44,000 to $120,000. For the largest penalty, investigators at a processing and distribution center in Sandston, VA, found that USPS allowed workers to use powered industrial equipment that was not inspected or examined for defects after each shift; permitted workers to operate powered industrial vehicles without wearing a seat belt; exposed workers to struck-by or caught-between hazards by allowing workers to operate powered industrial equipment in aisles clearly marked for wheeled mail carts; and other problems.
Major citations: Four repeat citations and one other-than serious violations at the Virginia distribution site.
"Every year, thousands of workers are injured – some fatally – while operating powered industrial equipment. It is every employer's responsibility to provide its employees with safe and healthful workplaces. Prompt and effective corrective action must be taken." – Stan Dutko Jr., OSHA's area director in Norfolk, VA
Company: HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc.
Location: Thomson, GA (OSHA Region 4)
Business type: Auto parts manufacturer
Inspection trigger: Complaint
Event: Following a complaint, and as part of the agency's Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry, inspectors found that workers were exposed to workplace dangers such as falls, amputations and electrocution hazards. According to OSHA, HP Pelzer failed to protect workers from laceration and amputation hazards because of unguarded machine parts; protect workers from thermal skin burns due to contact with hot metallic surfaces; and train employees who perform work on hazardous energy sources.
Major citations: HP Pelzer was cited for 12 repeat and eight serious violations.
"Employers must ensure they provide safe and healthy working conditions – at all times – and not just during or immediately following an OSHA onsite inspection." – William Fulcher, OSHA area director in the Atlanta-East Office
Location: Canton, OH (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Steel manufacturer
Inspection trigger: Worker injury
Event: An employee broke several bones and missed several months of work after a crane's safety latch failed and 1,000 pounds of equipment fell on him as he worked on the facility floor. A follow-up investigation showed struck-by, fall and amputations at two TimkenSteel plants in Canton, OH. Investigators found that workers were exposed to falls due to lack of guardrails, slippery surfaces and protective equipment; damaged equipment; electrical hazards; and live machinery operating parts during service and maintenance because locking devices and guards were not used.
Major citations: TimkenSteel was cited for one willful, one repeated and two safety citations at its Gambrinus plant in Canton, OH; and eight repeated, eight serious and one other-than-serious violation at its Harrison plant, which also is in Canton.
"This worker is lucky to be alive. We also observed conditions where workers could have fallen or lost limbs. It is unacceptable that the company has repeatedly been cited for these same hazards." – Howard Eberts, OSHA area director in Cleveland
Company: Case Farms
Location: Canton, OH (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Chicken processor
Inspection trigger: Planned inspection
Event: Federal inspections revealed deficiencies in ammonia refrigeration systems at two of Case Farms' Ohio facilities. Exposure to ammonia can cause serious respiratory illness, and the release of ammonia from pressurized pipes and vessels can lead to injury and death.
Major citations: Case Farms was cited for 11 repeat, four serious and two other-than-serious violations at its Winesburg plant; and five repeat and three serious violations at its Canton facility.
"Case Farms needs to protect its workers. Period. The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards." – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Ashley Furniture
Location: Whitehall, WI (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Furniture retailer
Inspection trigger: Planned inspection under Severe Violator Enforcement Program
Event: Inspectors who visited Ashley Furniture's plant in Whitehall, WI, determined that the company did not implement procedures to prevent machines from starting unintentionally when operators changed blades, cleaned machines or cleared jams.
Major citations: Ashley Furniture was cited for one willful, five repeat and two serious citations.