Two companies recently discovered the hard way that neglecting to correct safety violations is unnecessarily costly.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Frost Tile and Marble Co. $136,400 in October 2013 for 10 health and safety violations at its Norton, Ohio, tile-manufacturing facility. Eight of those citations were failure-to-abate violations, which accounted for $132,000 of the total fine.
In September 2013, OSHA hit Jersey Shore Steel with a $115,400 fine for four violations, including three failure-to-abate citations at its Jackson, N.J., facility that amounted to $111,000 in penalties.
A failure-to-abate violation exists when an employer has not corrected a violation for which OSHA has issued a citation and the date by which the employer must fix the problem has passed. Failure-to-abate penalties are calculated by multiplying a daily penalty times the number of days the violation remains uncorrected.
OSHA reinspected Frost Tile’s Norton facility in April 2013 and found that the eight violations had not been corrected since the original inspection in September 2012.
The violations involved, among other things, failing to:
- Protect workers from exposure to respirable dust containing silica in excess of permissible limits.
- Implement engineering controls that would put the company in compliance with exposure limits and to develop a respiratory-protection program.
- Verify that the required workplace hazard assessment was performed and certified.
- Establish a lockout/tagout energy-control program.
- Provide training on personal protective equipment and fire extinguisher use.
- Provide workers with information on hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
Jersey Shore Steel’s failure-to-abate citations resulted from the company’s not correcting hazards it was informed about in June 2012. OSHA’s April 2013 follow-up inspection found that the company still had not:
- Developed and implemented a written lockout/tagout program.
- Required fork-truck operators to have their performance evaluated.
- Trained workers to use portable fire extinguishers.
“Don’t let this happen to you—you do not want to develop a reputation as the kind of employer who fails to abate,” cautioned Howard Mavity, a partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips. “That may be more damaging to your reputation than a ‘willful’ citation.”
If you receive a citation during an OSHA inspection, you must do the following:
- Fix the violations that OSHA points out during an inspection and then certify that they have been corrected. The agency provides examples of simple abatement certification letters that employers may use to document that they have corrected each cited hazard.
- Provide abatement documentation, abatement plans and progress reports if asked.
- Inform affected employees and their representatives of the abatement action taken.
- Allow employees to examine and make copies of abatement documents the company has sent to OSHA.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy