Washington D.C. –Effective January 23, 2019, OSHA has increased its civil penalties by approximately 2.5% with a new maximum single-violation penalty for willful and repeat violations of $132,598.
The increased penalty was published in the Federal Register, took effect immediately on January 23, 2019, and applies to all violations occurring on or after that date. This penalty increase is meant to adjust for inflation as required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015. In 2016, this piece of legislation initially raised civil penalties by 78% – a dramatic change after 26 years without a penalty increase.
New maximum penalty amounts adjusted for inflation as of Jan. 23, 2019 are as follows:
Type of Violation
$13,260 per violation
Failure to Abate
$13,260 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated
$132,598 per violation
The new penalty levels were not expected to take effect until the partial government shutdown ended but instead were published despite the shutdown. The U.S. Department of Labor is required to annually adjust its civil money penalty levels for inflation no later than January 15 of each year, under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act).
Read more: OSHA’s January 23, 2019 Enforcement Memo, “Implementation of the 2019 Annual Adjustment Pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvement Act of 2015.”
Gardena, CA – A worker was killed this week in Gardena (CA) when the machine he was cleaning turned back on. The fatal injury occurred at the German Machined Products Inc manufacturing facility. Cal/OSHA is investigating.
On Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles County Fire Department received a call about a person trapped inside a metal-cutting machine. By the time emergency workers arrived, the man was dead.
The worker’s name has not yet been released, but according to the LA County Coroner’s Office the victim was a Latino man in his 60s.
German Machined Products’ Gardena manufacturing facility specializes in complex machining and assembly for the aerospace industry. There is a history of Cal/OSHA citations and violations at the plant. In 2014, Cal/OSHA issued four general citations and one serious citation against German Machined Products for failing to properly guard hazardous machinery.
In light of this fatal workplace injury, Cal/OSHA will be interviewing co-workers, checking the Gardena facility’s equipment, and thoroughly reviewing safety and training procedures at German Machined Products.
Accidents during machine maintenance and cleaning activities are especially tragic since they are highly preventable. The federal Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) standard is designed to protect the nearly 3 million workers who service equipment and consequently face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the lockout/tagout standard is estimated to prevent roughly 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually.
Please contact Martin Technical to learn more about Lockout/Tagout safety procedures.
Conroe, TX – An electrical panel explosion and fire at Aegion Coating Services’ production plant sent two electricians to the hospital this month.
Investigators say two electricians were seriously burned when a high voltage electrical panel they were working on exploded.
According to the local Fire Marshal, multiple agencies responded to the emergency and the facility was evacuated as a precaution. One report described heavy black smoke billowing from a large warehouse at the site. The fire caused by the electrical panel explosion was quickly put out by firefighters. The chemicals present at this plant were a concern for area firefighters, but it was reported that no chemicals were released and local residents were not evacuated.
Both affected electricians were transported to the hospital for burn treatments, but were back to work when the plant was authorized to resume operations later that same day.
The Aegion chemical plant facility north of Houston specializes in pipeline coatings for both onshore and offshore installations. The incident is currently under investigation by the County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Please contact Martin Technical to learn more about Electrical and Arc Flash safety.
Cantua Creek, CA – Cal/OSHA is investigating the deaths of two workers fatally crushed in an accident at an almond orchard outside of Fresno (CA).
Two workers at Vista Verde Ranch were attempting to repair an almond shaker in the grove when they were fatally crushed. One of the men was a mechanic, the other a machine operator. The mechanic crawled under the almond shaker and disconnected the hydraulic hoses that powered the shaker arm. However, neither worker set the machine’s arm on the ground ahead of time. The hydraulically-controlled arm fell when the hoses were disconnected, fatally crushing both men.
Co-workers, concerned after having not heard from the pair for over an hour, went to check on the men. A call was placed to 911, and the victims were subsequently pronounced dead by paramedics. The two deceased workers were identified by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office as Arnold Torres (66) and Angel Barajas (31).
The incident is being investigated by Cal/OSHA. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly referred to as Cal/OSHA, is an arm of the state government which sets and enforces workplace standards designed to protect and improve the health and safety of working Californians.
Hialeah, FL – OSHA has cited CGI Windows and Doors for federal workplace safety violations that include willful failures in machine guarding which will cost PGT Industries fines proposed to total $398,545. OSHA investigated the Florida window and door manufacturer following reports that an employee had suffered a partial finger amputation while using an unguarded punch press at their facility outside of Miami. CGI Windows and Doors is owned by PGT Industries.
OSHA cited PGT for two serious violations and two other-than-serious violations, however the bulk of the fine was for the willful violation of machine safety standards. In their announcement, OSHA stated that PGT Industries “knowingly disregarded machine guarding requirement intended to protect employees from caught-in and amputation hazards.” The Willful violation constitutes $258,672 of the proposed fine. In this case, OSHA applied the maximum fine allowed by law for the violations that can cause life-altering injury.
Federal workplace safety inspectors found guards absent on eight punch presses, a drill press, and a table saw at the CGI Windows and Doors facility. Three other punch presses were documented as having guards that didn’t cover enough area to protect workers.
The serious and other-than-serious citations were for hazards including failing to implement a program to inspect mechanical power presses and correct unsafe conditions; exposing employees to electrical hazards; failing to make sure employees wore hearing protection; and failing to develop specific procedures to verify the control of hazardous energy an industrial safety practice known as Lockout Tagout.
In response to OSHA’s announcement and the associated penalties, PGT asserted that they “share OSHA’s goal of ensuring the safety of each and every one of our team members.”
Elysburg, PA – OSHA has proposed $112,523 in penalties after finding that lockout/tagout failures lead to an employee’s arm being amputated while cleaning machinery.
OSHA has cited Toy Factory TX LLC for workplace safety violations after investigating the circumstances that lead to an employee’s arm being amputated while cleaning machinery earlier this year. OSHA has proposed $112,523 in penalties for the company’s failure to develop acceptable procedures to prevent the release of hazardous energy; failure to apply lockout devices; and failure to train employees on lockout/tagout procedures.
OSHA’s local area office director stated that Toy Factory’s “failure to use appropriate machine locking devices resulted in a serious injury that could have been prevented.” Machine locking devices are an important part of an industrial Lockout/Tagout program. Lockout devices are mechanical means of locking a machine in a position that prevents energization of a machine, equipment, or a process. Energy-isolating devices are applied to machinery during maintenance or while employees are otherwise servicing equipment to prevent unexpected startup and thereby avoid employee injury.
Nearly 3 million workers service equipment and these employees face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
Federal workplace safety inspectors determined that Toy Factory TX LLC (doing business as The Toy Factory LLC) failed to develop acceptable written lockout/tagout procedures, failed to apply lockout devices, and failed to train employees on lockout/tagout. OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures. Appropriate training ensures that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by employees and that employees gain the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls.
The Elysburg (PA) facility is one of several owned by Texas-based Toy Factory TX which manufactures stuffed toys intended for use as rewards and prizes at amusement parks, entertainment game centers, and crane machines.
Montgomery, AL –Sabel Steel Service Inc faces $320,261 in federal fines for unsafe working conditions, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Sabel Steel, which was honored just two years ago for its safety record by the Alabama Department of Labor, disagrees with the findings and will be meeting with OSHA to discuss.
In terms of failures to meet federal Lockout Tagout standards, OSHA inspectors found that the written lockout procedures at Sable were vague, generic, and did not state clearly how to shut down the machine, apply the lock, and restore service. Further, OSHA cited failures to conduct and document periodic inspection of the lockout/tagout (or energy control) procedures. OSHA also fined Sable Steel for failures in regard to lockout training. Employees were found to have been authorized to lockout equipment without first having been trained on how to properly perform lockout/tagout on the machines.
Additionally, OSHA’s statement claims that Sable Steel failed to provide fall protection; failed to conduct medical evaluations to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator; and improperly stored oxygen, propane, and acetylene cylinders.
Sable Steel is notable as a 162-year-old family-owned company, currently lead by the fifth generation. They supply steel scrap and rebar, and are reported to have quadrupled in size since 1990.
Edgewood, FL – An employee of an Orlando-area marble and granite facility died after being crushed by a machine he was cleaning earlier this month.
The worker has been identified as Shawn Knowles (age 44). Emergency responders were initially called to handle an arm injury, after co-workers found Knowles hurt but conscious. Unfortunately, he subsequently lost consciousness from the shock of the injury and went into cardiac arrest.
According to area fire rescue personnel, Knowles is reported to have been hosing down a water trench surrounding an automated machine when he was pushed into the wedge by the heavy device. He was crushed by a beam and a piece of the machinery. Firefighters arrived and began resuscitation efforts. Knowles was taken to the Orlando Regional Medical Center where he later died.
Brundidge, AL – Southern Classic Food Group LLC faces $164,997 in fines following citations for amputation and other hazards stemming from separate incidents in which two employees were hospitalized, one for a finger amputation and one for burns.
In the first incident brought to their attention, OSHA stated that an employee suffered burns while using hot water under pressure. Just six days later, another employee suffered an amputation to the tip of the finger.
In the course of their investigation, OSHA found that Southern Classic Food Group exposed employees to amputation hazards; neglected to implement lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy and failed to train employees on these procedures; failed to ensure employees isolated energy sources; and did not provide personal protective equipment or implement a bloodborne pathogen program.
One OSHA citation was for neglecting to make sure workers isolated energy sources before performing line-breaking work. Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) and Hazardous Energy Control/Control of Hazardous Energy refers to the same standard of preventing unexpected start up or movement of equipment. Machines that start up unexpectedly during maintenance are common causes of industrial injury and amputation. Proper application of lockout-tagout (or hazardous energy controls) violations are on OSHA’s Top 10 “Most Often Cited Violations” and Top 10 “Most Serious Violations” lists.
Approximately 3 million workers in the US service equipment and face the greatest risk of injury if lockout/tagout is not properly implemented. Compliance with the federal lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
Risk of amputation is a hazard of conducting maintenance work on industrial machinery, which is why OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies, practices, and procedures. Training ensures that the purpose and function of an energy control program is understood by employees and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by employees.
Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – A fatal explosion at an Australian Power Station is said to have been the result of a phase-to-phase arc flash. A unit controller with more than 30 years’ experience was critically injured during the explosion in the southeastern-most state of Australia which lead to his death the next day.
EnergyAustralia has identified arc flash as the cause of the explosion at the Yallourn Power Station, however a local union representative is not confident in that explanation and staff at the power station say they are afraid to go to work.
Graeme Edwards died after a high-voltage circuit breaker he was working on exploded last month. Edwards was re-installing a high-voltage circuit breaker on one of the plant’s four generation units when the explosion occurred, a procedure known as “racking.” EnergyAustralia stated that racking is a routine job but potentially hazardous. In this case, the unit burst into flames that burnt most of Edwards’ body. The worker was flown to hospital in a critical condition but died a day later.
EnergyAustralia said it believed the “sudden electrical discharge” was caused by a “phase-to-phase arc flash.” However, they have yet to determine what caused the short circuit which is the source of union and worker worries about the safety of the workplace.
An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode and can result in an arc-plasma fireball with temperatures in excess of 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors as they expand up to 67,000 times original volume. The arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.
Yallorn Power Station workers will not be asked to use affect equipment involved in the incident until EnergyAustralia determines that it is safe to do so. An executive of Yallourn Power Station has said that risk assessments are being conducted and that all safety controls will be reviewed prior to resuming work.
A representative of the union which advocates for the workers at Yallourn Power station has voiced concerns that workers were not provided with the most up-to-date protective gear, including arc flash suits, similar to what bomb disposal workers use.