On Safety

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Newspaper-prompted OSHA bust offers lesson

August 22, 2012

The media is occasionally referred to as the Fourth Estate, an institutional force that can influence society. For one Indiana company, that force led to OSHA knocking on its door.

Solid State LLC was cited by Indiana OSHA for a variety of alleged violations pertaining to several different hazards, including lack of personal protective equipment and fall protection, and was fined a proposed $12,750.

This in itself isn’t very interesting. But what is interesting is how IOSHA found out about the hazards:
“On Feb. 10, The Star Press published a story with photographs documenting the deconstruction of two historic barns at the former Riggin’s Dairy. On the same day, inspectors from the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed up at the work site with the newspaper in hand.”

This is from an article published by The Star Press Aug. 15. As the company owner described it, the work was being done as a favor and “The front page got me busted.”

This incident offers a good lesson for employers. A cynic might say the lesson is “no good deed goes unpunished,” but I prefer to think the takeaway is that there’s always room for improvement.

The company owner is quoted in the article as saying safety is taken seriously. I don’t doubt that. But I think it’s safe to say if you’re involved in a project of which you have no or little expertise, as this owner was, you should probably seek help from individuals with the background you lack.

Take a step back and re-examine the situation – are the workers who are using scaffolding properly protected from a fall? Is the appropriate PPE available? Are there any electrical concerns or fire hazards to prepare for?

If you don’t take a moment to evaluate the worksite, OSHA finding out from the local media and knocking on your door could be the least of your concerns.

(Hat Tip: Cal-OSHA Reporter)

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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