OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations for 2019
Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) is OSHA’s most frequently cited standard for fiscal year 2019. This marks the ninth consecutive year it has stood atop the agency’s “Top 10” list.
Speaking in September at the National Safety Council 2019 Congress & Expo in San Diego, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, talked about another thing that hasn’t changed: The agency’s willingness to assist employers with curbing violations involving fall protection and other standards.
“These are common violations that we’re finding – they’ve been in place for a lot of years,” Kapust said. “The answers are out there, and employers shouldn’t feel like these are very complex issues. If you don’t know the answers, we encourage you to contact OSHA.”
Most cited violations, fiscal year 2019
Based on OSHA Information System data from Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30. Data current as of Nov. 1.
Top 10 "serious" violations, fiscal year 2019
OSHA defines a “serious” violation as “one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”
Top 10 "willful" violations, fiscal year 2019
OSHA defines a “willful” violation as one “committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and requirements.”
Tables based on OSHA Information System data from Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30. Data current as of Nov. 1.
This list of OSHA’s highest proposed monetary penalties in fiscal year 2019 comprises those stemming from a single incident or related incidents in which one or more employers are alleged to have failed to adhere to safe work practices. These failures put workers at risk – in some cases fatally. The following information was gathered from press releases issued by federal OSHA between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019.
(Note: Dollar amounts may be reduced as part of a settlement agreement or litigation.)
EMPLOYER: Purvis Home Improvement Co. Inc.
LOCATIONS: Portland and Old Orchard Beach, ME (OSHA Region 1)
BUSINESS TYPE: Roofing contractor
INSPECTION TRIGGER: Worker fatality
EVENT: Inspectors determined that company owner Shawn D. Purvis knowingly failed to ensure worker use of fall protection at worksites in both Portland and Old Orchard Beach, ME. In December 2018 at the Portland site, a residential construction worker was killed after falling 20 feet to the ground after attempting to climb off a roof and onto ladder jack scaffolding. In April, a Portland grand jury charged Purvis with manslaughter and workplace manslaughter, indictments to which he pleaded not guilty in May.
MAJOR CITATIONS: Purvis was cited for 13 willful, three serious and one repeat violation, with eight of the willful violations tied to the Portland worksite incident. Violations stemmed from failure to provide fall protection training to employees, as well as worker exposure to electrocution and eye hazards. OSHA has cited Purvis for seven fall protection requirement violations since December 2006. “Effective fall protection can prevent tragedies like this when an employer ensures the proper use of legally required lifesaving protection. An ongoing refusal to follow the law exposes other employees to potentially fatal or disabling injuries. Employers cannot evade their responsibility to ensure a safe and healthful workplace.” – David McGuan, OSHA area director in Augusta, ME
EMPLOYER: Dowa THT America Inc.
LOCATION: Bowling Green, OH (OSHA Region 5)
BUSINESS TYPE: Metal heat treatment
INSPECTION TRIGGER: Complaint
EVENT: OSHA inspectors found that the employer knowingly exposed workers to various atmospheric, thermal, electrical and mechanical hazards during interior maintenance work for heat-treating furnaces. Hazards were related to confined spaces, falls, machine guarding, respiratory protection, chemical exposures and electrical equipment. Further, Dowa THT America failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment and hazard awareness training.
MAJOR CITATIONS: Dowa THT America was cited for 32 willful and three serious violations. OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“The violations identified exposed employees to serious and potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses. Employers have a legal obligation to assess their workplaces for hazards and establish appropriate safety and health programs to protect their workers.” – Loren Sweatt, acting OSHA administrator
$898,692EMPLOYER: Dollar Tree Inc.
LOCATIONS: Boise, Caldwell, Nampa and Meridian, ID (OSHA Region 10)
BUSINESS TYPE: Discount retailer
INSPECTION TRIGGER: Complaint
EVENT: An inspection at the Boise location in response to allegations of employee exposure to unstable stacks of boxes in the stockroom led to similar complaints at three stores elsewhere in southwestern Idaho. Inspectors discovered improper box stacking practices at each store, as well as blocked aisles and exit routes. At one store, inspectors encountered an employee who was injured and needed assistance as a result of falling boxes. At another store, boxes fell and nearly injured a worker while an inspector recorded footage of working conditions. MAJOR CITATIONS: OSHA cited Dollar Tree with eight repeat and three serious violations involving hazards such as unsafe storage and stacking of boxes, blocked electrical panels, improper ladder use, and worker exposure to falls from height.
“Dollar Tree stores have a history of exposing their employees to safety and health hazards. Improper storage of merchandise creates unnecessary risks for employees, while blocked exits pose serious risks to the safety of employees and customers in an emergency.” – Loren Sweatt, acting OSHA administrator
EMPLOYER: Choice Products USA LLC
LOCATION: Eau Claire, WI (OSHA Region 5)
BUSINESS TYPE: Food manufacturer
INSPECTION TRIGGER: Complaint
EVENT: A follow-up resulting from a 2016 inspection in which the company was found to have exposed workers to numerous hazards related to heavy machinery.
MAJOR CITATIONS: The company was cited for seven serious, six willful, three other-than-serious and one repeat violation. Five willful violations – classified as egregious – stemmed from failure to enact worker training on lockout/tagout procedures. Additionally, inspectors found Choice Products did not install machine guarding or comply with forklift regulations. OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“The company managers developed comprehensive lockout/tagout procedures following the 2016 inspection but failed to implement their own safety program. Employers are required by law to provide workers with safe and healthful workplaces.” – William Donovan, acting OSHA regional administrator in Chicago
EMPLOYER: Fuyao Glass America Inc.
LOCATION: Moraine, OH (OSHA Region 5)
BUSINESS TYPE: Automotive glass manufacturer
INSPECTION TRIGGER: OSHA performed a planned inspection under its Site-Specific Targeting Program. (According to a July 29 agency press release, OSHA has inspected the employer 12 times in the past four years.)
EVENT: Among its findings, OSHA discovered that employees were exposed to electrical safety hazards, and that the employer failed to evaluate the workplace to determine permit-required confined spaces, train employees on lockout/tagout procedures and entering confined spaces, install machine guarding, provide employees with hearing protection and other personal protective equipment, and require its employees to use fall protection. MAJOR CITATIONS: Fuyao Glass America was cited for 13 serious, nine repeat and one other-than-serious violation across two inspections.
“This company’s repeated failure to implement and enforce safety and health programs at the workplace is unacceptable. Employers must continually evaluate their facilities for hazards and train employees and managers to use proper safety controls and equipment to keep their workers safe and healthful.” – William Donovan, acting OSHA regional administrator in Chicago
EMPLOYER: Champion Modular Inc.
LOCATION: Strattanville, PA (OSHA Region 3)
BUSINESS TYPE: Homebuilder INSPECTION TRIGGER: Worker amputation
EVENT: Inspectors determined that the employer’s failure to use machine guarding, provide fall protection, and train workers on hazard communication and hearing conservation exposed workers to various safety and health hazards. MAJOR CITATIONS: Champion Modular was cited for 21 serious, eight willful and three other-than-serious violations.
“Employers’ use of machine guards and devices is not optional. Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that machine operators are protected.” – Brendan Claybaugh, OSHA area director in Erie, PA
EMPLOYERS: Enerfab Process Solutions & Fabricated Products Inc. and Industrial Services Group Inc. (operating as Universal Blastco)
LOCATION: Wilmington, DE (OSHA Region 3)
BUSINESS TYPE: General contractors
INSPECTION TRIGGER: Worker fatality
EVENT: A Universal Blastco employee died after falling 40 feet from a scaffold while working with a crew performing renovations on a 1.5-million-gallon, aboveground storage tank at an orange juice processing facility. MAJOR CITATIONS: Universal Blastco was cited for seven serious, three willful and three other-than-serious violations over two inspections. Enerfab was cited for seven serious and three willful violations over two inspections. Violations were for hazards involving scaffolding, lack of fall protection, electrical, confined space and respiratory protection.
“Falls continue to be the leading cause of worker fatalities in the construction industry, yet they are preventable when the proper fall protection is utilized. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect workers from falls, and neither company met their obligations in this case.” – Erin Patterson, OSHA area director in Wilmington, DE
$615,640EMPLOYER: 7 S Packing LLC (operating as Texas Packing Co.)
LOCATION: San Angelo, TX (OSHA Region 6)
BUSINESS TYPE: Meatpacking facility
INSPECTION TRIGGER: Complaint
EVENT: Under the Process Safety Management Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, inspectors found that Texas Packing Co. failed to enact a required PSM program for operating an ammonia refrigeration unit containing more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. Additionally, the employer failed to provide fall protection, guarded machines or equipment; control hazardous energy; and implement a respirator protection program.
MAJOR CITATIONS: The company was cited for 10 serious and four willful violations.
EMPLOYER: Navy Contractors Inc.
LOCATIONS: Royersford, Collegeville and Center Valley, PA (OSHA Region 3)
BUSINESS TYPE: Residential construction contractor
INSPECTION TRIGGERS: Referral (Center Valley), program-related (Collegeville) and planned (Royersford)
EVENT: After inspectors saw employees working without using fall protection at each site, OSHA initiated three independent inspections. Previously, agency inspections found that the employer knowingly disregarded its obligation to provide fall protection, and these inspections uncovered similar results. (Note: At the Royersford site, Navy Contractors served as a subcontractor to controlling general contractor Blue Lion Ventures, operating as Storm Guard of Ches-Mont Inc.) MAJOR CITATIONS: Navy Contractors was cited for six repeat, five serious, five willful and one other-than-serious violation. Violations were related to failure to provide workers with fall protection equipment and training, improper ladder use, deficiencies in walking/working surfaces, and inadequate fire protection. “All construction employers, regardless of their contracting status, are legally required to comply with regulations to protect workers’ safety and health.” – Jean Kulp, OSHA area director in Allentown, PA
EMPLOYER: Custom Rubber Products LLC
LOCATION: Houston (OSHA Region 6)
BUSINESS TYPE: Oil and gas industry product manufacturer
INSPECTION TRIGGERS: Complaint and referral
EVENT: Cited in 2014 after a worker was severely injured, Custom Rubber Products failed to correct machine guarding and caught-in hazards.
MAJOR CITATIONS: Custom Rubber Products was cited for four willful violations. The company remains in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“Employers are required to assess potential hazards and make necessary corrections to ensure a safe workplace. The inspection results demonstrate workplace deficiencies existed, putting workers at serious risk of injury.” – Eric Harbin, acting OSHA regional administrator in Dallas
Q & A with OSHA's Patrick Kapust
Preliminary data for OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations for fiscal year 2019 was announced Sept. 10 at the National Safety Council 2019 Congress & Expo in San Diego. Later that day, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, sat down with Safety+Health Associate Editor Kevin Druley to discuss the list, as well as strategies the occupational safety community can use to help correct hazards in their workplaces.
Safety+Health: Why do you think the Top 10 generally stays the same year after year?
Patrick Kapust: The Top 10 generally stays the same because employers are not aggressively targeting these hazards at their worksites. OSHA has free, readily available resources to train and educate workers to eliminate these hazards. For example, falls remain the top cited hazard for a good reason: Falls can and do result in significant injuries and deaths. But they are easily preventable.
S+H: The fall protection standard continues to top the list. What is it about the standard that yields so many violations?
Kapust: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls from elevations is the No. 1 cause of fatal injuries for construction workers. Falls are one of the “Focus Four” hazards in the construction industry. The others are caught in between, struck by and electrocution. OSHA is vigilant about identifying these hazards and getting them corrected to save lives. Employers need to be vigilant too, though. Ensuring a robust safety management system is in place will help mitigate these hazards before they become incidents, and this should be a priority for the employer. Worker participation and management commitment to a safety program are key to the success of that program.
S+H: How are things going in the enforcement division?
Kapust: Well, enforcement is the cornerstone of the agency’s mission to ensure employers provide safe and healthful workplaces for their employees and remains a strong component – along with compliance assistance and education – of our balanced approach to workplace injuries and illnesses.
S+H: During an April 3 appropriations hearing, then-Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta said he expects the number of OSHA inspections to increase when recently hired inspectors get up to speed. What does OSHA consider a reasonable time frame for new inspectors to be ready to go into the field on their own?
Kapust: Because there is a lot of variety – variations in previous experience, education and training – there is no specific time frame in which new [compliance safety and health officers], or compliance officers, are expected to be able to conduct inspections. However, the new staff generally begins shadowing veteran CSHOs as soon as possible, then progress to less complex assignments on their own within the first year.
S+H: OSHA is reportedly increasing its use of drones in inspections. How might it affect the Top 10?
Kapust: OSHA issued a memorandum to our regional administrators that presents a uniform protocol for the use of unmanned aircraft during enforcement activities. Most importantly, use of unmanned aircraft is generally limited to situations when it’s dangerous for site personnel and/or compliance officers to access areas for inspection. For example, drilling rigs, drilling rig explosions, storage tank collapse, things of that nature. And all parties agree to their use. Although there will not be a foreseeable impact on the Top 10 by the use of unmanned aircraft, OSHA does use them to conduct inspections more efficiently and with greater safety.
S+H: The Top 10 list shows that the occupational safety community has had to tackle many of the same problems or teach many of the same lessons year after year. What could help change that?
Kapust: From OSHA’s perspective, targeted enforcement and outreach are two critical tools in getting employers to identify and correct hazards in the workplace. Occupational safety and health professionals are encouraged to continue in their systematic approach of developing and promoting strong safety and health programs. OSHA’s Directorate of Training and Education, along with our occupational Training Institute Education Center partners, is a resource for educating and training employers and workers in safety awareness. OSHA’s cooperative programs are excellent ways for employers, employees and associations to work with OSHA on meaningful safety and health initiatives.
S+H: In what ways is the agency succeeding in fulfilling its core priorities?
Kapust: Our common goal is that every employee goes home safe and healthy at the end of the day. The agency is committed to maintaining a balanced approach to reaching this goal through compliance assistance and enforcement. Ensuring employers comply with OSHA standards is key to protecting employees. The possibility of an OSHA inspection and citations serves to deter employers who are not focused on their responsibilities to provide safe and healthful working conditions, as required by the OSH Act of 1970. Through our compliance efforts, OSHA has saved thousands of lives and prevented millions of injuries. Strong, fair, effective enforcement also levels the playing field between those employers who fulfill their responsibilities to provide safe workplaces and those employers who compete unfairly by putting their employees at risk of injury, illness or death. Emphasis programs play a very important role in accomplishing the mission of the agency. Just to highlight a few, OSHA reintroduced the Site-Specific Targeting Program utilizing employer-submitted injury and illness data from the 300A forms in calendar year 2016. SST inspections are identifying and ensuring abatement for serious hazards involving lockout/tagout, electricity, amputations, powered industrial trucks and hazard communication. OSHA revised the National Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation to address the disturbing upward trend of fatalities in excavation. One of OSHA’s goals regarding the emphasis program is to increase abated hazards found under that program. Each of these emphasis programs – and ones that exist that I did not mention – is effectively finding and collecting abatement for hazards to which employees are exposed. Other programs OSHA tries to utilize to meet the mission include the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, corporatewide settlement agreements, federal targeting programs for federal agencies and the Construction Targeting Program.
S+H: You joined OSHA nearly 30 years ago, in 1991. What are a few key takeaways and advancements you’ve observed? How do these influence your work today?
Kapust: The biggest change that I’ve seen has been the impact of technology. When I first started as a CSHO, everything was handwritten – all of our notes, violation worksheets – and there were no computers. Now, the entire inspection is developed electronically, including digital photographs and video records. That has made the process much more efficient. Another big change is the way that we share information with the public. The internet has had a profound effect on the type of information available and the immediacy of the delivery for that information. Employers and employees are able to visit OSHA’s website and access a broad variety of information that helps them address hazards and work more safely. I have no doubt that this has led to the avoidance of untold injuries and illnesses.
S+H: Anything else you’d like Safety+Health readers to know?
Kapust: Like I’ve always said, I think that the Top 10 cited hazards are a good place to start when looking for hazards in your own workplace. But it’s important for everyone to remember that a good safety and health program will have a long-term impact on your worksite’s overall safety and health performance. OSHA can help with that through the agency’s cooperative programs and the vast array of outreach materials on our website.
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