New Orleans, LA- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found numerous safety violations at the site of the 18-story Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans, which partially collapsed in October, killing three and injuring dozens.
The top floors of the high-rise building on the edge of the French Quarter collapsed unexpectedly on the morning of Oct. 12, sending debris cascading into the streets and injuring workers and bystanders. The bodies of two of the workers killed in the accident remain trapped in the rumble.
OSHA fined 11 contractors on the project for life-threatening violations, with the largest fines imposed against Heaslip Engineering. Heaslip Engineering, based in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, was found to have committed both “serious” and “willful” violations and was fined $154,214.
OSHA’s findings included that “floor beams on the 16th floor were under-designed in load capacity” and “structural steel connections were inadequately designed, reviewed or approved,” the latter a “willful” violation.
OSHA defines a “serious” violation as one that could “cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm.” A “willful” violation is one where “the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”
Besides the 11 previously stated, other contractors working on the Hard Rock Hotel project were cited for safety violations that included a lack of training, not providing protective equipment and failing to keep exits clear.
Kansas City, MO — A federal agency has opened an investigation after conveyor belt death at a UPS facility in Kansas City, Missouri. A spokeswoman for UPS said Tuesday afternoon that the man, who was transported to North Kansas City Hospital in life-threatening condition on Monday night, died Tuesday morning. The man was an employee of a UPS vendor and was maintaining equipment at the facility when the incident occurred.
Authorities have not released the man’s name or any other details about what led to the incident.
In a statement, UPS said it was continuing to work with authorities.
“We are saddened for the loss of a vendor’s employee, who was maintaining equipment at one of our facilities,” the statement read. “We are working with the responding authorities, and extend our heartfelt condolences to the individual’s family, friends and coworkers.”
According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor, compliance officers with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have opened an investigation at the UPS facility at 1010 N. Century Ave.
The spokesperson said that no further details will be released until OSHA completes the investigation, which it has six months to do by law.
Understanding OSHA’s regulations and having proper employee training is essential in avoiding hazardous situations, such as this conveyor belt death.
The agency, which has jurisdiction over 7 million work sites across the U.S., prioritizes inspections at places that present “imminent danger situations” or where “severe injuries and illnesses,” including work-related fatalities, have occurred.
Emergency crews responded to the facility, which is just south of Front Street and east of Interstate 435, around 6 p.m. Monday. Crews performed CPR on the man on the way to the hospital.
Police initially reported that the man had been pronounced dead at the UPS facility, but said about an hour later that he was alive but had life-threatening injuries. UPS confirmed his death on Tuesday afternoon.
Eugene, OR- Officials with Oregon Occupational Safety and Health are investigating a fatal accident that killed a worker Saturday morning at a Beltline construction site.
According to Eugene Springfield Fire, a worker in his early sixties was pinched between an excavator and a barrier near the Delta Highway and Beltline interchange just before 11 a.m. When first responders arrived, the worker had been freed and was transported to Riverbend hospital with “serious” injuries.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said the accident halted work on the project for some time.
According to officials, the worker was an employee of contractor Hamilton Construction. In a statement, the company confirmed the death and told KEZI 9 News, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and co-workers. We lost a great employee and friend.”
The company said that safety is it’s top priority and will cooperate with authorities to investigate the cause of the accident.
OSHA said it has 180 days to complete the investigation.
According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, in 2018 there were nearly 5,000 public workplace deaths with over 1,000 of those being construction related — accounting for over 20 percent of workplace fatalities.
In Oregon, of 62 public workplace fatalities, 11 were in construction.
OSHA specifies four key dangers they coin the “fatal four” in construction; falls, electrocution, being struck by an object, or getting caught in or between something. Training workers and management and meeting OSHA standards regarding the “fatal four” could potentially lead to more regulated and less fatal incidents.
According to ODOT, work is being done in the center median of the Beltline highway, closing center lanes in both directions throughout the weekend. Officials said lane closures are still expected to end by 6 a.m. Monday morning
Buford, GA- A Buford distribution center has received over $190,000 in fines for safety violations that put its employees at risk, the U.S. Department of Labor said.
The $191,895 fine was levied against Mavis Southeast — the company better known as Mavis Discount Tire — on Dec. 23, following a routine inspection by the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration done on Sept. 11. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Inspectors found some warehouse emergency exits were blocked with items including stacks of tires, putting employees at risk in case of a fire or other instances when an urgent exit would be required. The facility also lacked emergency exit signs in required positions, a repeat offense, the agency said in its citation report. The repeat violations stem from issues first recorded in 2016, the report says.
Employees were seen without required safety equipment while working at elevations up to 25 feet, and multiple industrial storage racks had visible damage, presenting a risk to warehouse workers, the report said. Aisles where workers walk near trucks and other industrial machinery were not properly labeled, risking workers being struck by machinery, the report said. Congested and narrow aisles also presented a danger to forklift operators, according to the report.
Fire extinguishers were not easily accessible and did not undergo required monthly inspections or an annual maintenance check, the report said. Multiple violations regarding a lack of employee safety training were also noted in the report.
The company must respond the citation within 15 business days and include certifications that show the violations have been fixed. Mavis Southeast has the right to contest the citations and fines, but must do so within the 15-day period.
Gary, IN- A worker was seriously injured in an industrial accident at Gary Works Wednesday.
The steelworker suffered multiple injuries and was taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in downtown Gary. Information on his condition was not immediately available but he is expected to survive.
“We had a worker that got seriously hurt with several injuries but none life-threatening,” United Steelworkers District 7 Director Mike Millsap said. “All I know is he is a maintenance technician and was working on (a blast furnace) and he got hit by something.”
U.S. Steel’s OSHA Recordable Incident Rate has been 0.14 per 200,000 hours so far this year, down from 0.17 in 2017.
Though the United Steelworkers union and steelmakers have worked for years to prioritize workplace safety at the industrial mills, the hulking factories where metal is forged post many inherent hazards that include hot temperatures, catwalks over great heights, and moving equipment that weighs tons. Steelworker ranks as the sixth most deadly job nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Kentucky, USA- The family of a Kentucky man killed in a workplace incident has filed a lawsuit against his employer, GE Appliances, as well as other parties.
Steve Herring, who has worked for GE Appliances for more than two decades, died in February after being pinned by machinery while working on a refrigerator-building assembly line. News sources are reporting that the state OSHA’s investigation into the workplace incident found that it could have been caused by an inadvertent activation of an improperly positioned gate interlock control.
The lawsuit filed in Jefferson Circuit Court last week names General Electric Company, Design Safety Engineering Inc., Doerfer Corperation, Doerfer Acquisition Company, JR Automation Technologies LLC, Haier US Appliance Solutions Inc. and Kentucky resident Mark Miller as defendants.
The lawsuit claims that the assembly line Herring was working on was “unreasonably dangerous” and in “defective condition.” It alleges that there were no instructions or warnings about the hazards on the line — and that the companies being sued were aware of the defects. The suit requests punitive and compensatory damages.
According to Kentucky OSHA, GE made changes to the safety programming on an assembly line that was identical to the one at which Herring was pinned following a 2014 incident. However, the company didn’t fix the line where Herring worked until after Herring died.
An inspection conducted by the agency after the fatality resulted in GE being cited for seven safety violations and fined $98,000, which the company is appealing.
Kansas City, MO- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited a Kansas City-area construction company for multiple violations observed during a May jobsite visit.
According to KSHB, OSHA fined Blue Nile Contractors Inc. $210,037 for failing “to protect employees from trench collapse and electrical hazards.” Inspectors reported four repeat and five serious safety violations during the visit to a site where water lines were being installed.
Blue Nile is a minority-owned wet utility contractor that specializes in trenchless sewer and water construction. The Birmingham, Mo., company was selected as one of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Top 10 Small Businesses in 2018.
Blue Nile has been placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, KSHB reports. The company has 15 days to comply with OSHA demands or contest the findings.
Proper training and education regarding OSHA violations and accident prevention are is one way for companies to combat these high fines.
Waukegan, IL- An OSHA investigation into the deaths of four employees of an Illinois chemical plant has resulted in more than a million dollars in proposed penalties against AB Specialty Silicones LLC.
The company has been cited for a dozen willful federal safety violations in the explosion and fire at its Waukegan facility on May 3, 2019 that caused deaths of four employees.
The silicon chemical products manufacturer faces $1,591,176 in penalties and has been placed in the in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA investigators determined AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards, and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition.
Athens, GA- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited national discount retailer Dollar Tree Stores Inc. at its store on Atlanta Highway in Athens, Georgia. The company faces $125,026 in proposed penalties for exposing employees to safety hazards.
OSHA cited the company for exposing employees to struck-by, trip and fall hazards by failing to keep passageways and walking surfaces in a clean, orderly and sanitary condition. OSHA found unsafely stacked cases of merchandise and blocked emergency exits, and cited Dollar Tree for not maintaining access to portable fire extinguishers.
“These hazardous conditions unnecessarily exposed employees to potentially life-threatening injury,” said OSHA Area Director William Fulcher, in Atlanta-East. “There is no reason why the employees in this store should have been subjected to the same hazards previously identified and cited at other Dollar Tree locations.”
Dollar Tree Stores has a long history of serious and repeated violations related to unsafe stacking of merchandise and blocked exits. Since 2015, OSHA has cited the Chesapeake, Virginia-based company for similar violations at locations in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Wisconsin, Idaho, Texas, New York, and Rhode Island.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.
New Jersey- Nearly one-third of the employers in the state hit with initial safety violation fines of $40K or more are government agencies. But many cases are settled for lesser amounts.
New Jersey employers have been hit with at least $16.6 million in fines since 2015 for having unsafe workplaces and conditions.
Fines levied by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against employers in the state over the past five years peaked in 2017. In 2017, the federal agency levied more than $4.9 million in fines against at least 60 companies.
All told, the Network reviewed OSHA data of more than 200 enforcement cases with initial penalties of $40,000 and higher. Data for enforcement cases with penalties less than $40,000 were not available.
Most of the reviewed cases involved private employers. However, almost 30% of the penalties involved local, state or federal government agencies, the Network’s analysis shows. The initial penalties in those cases totaled more than $4 million.
The Network ‘s ranking of the data is based on the initial penalties OSHA levied against employers, not the final amount paid. Many of the cases the Network reviewed are still under appeal. Employers frequently enter into settlement agreements with OSHA for reduced penalties that require the employer to address the agency’s safety concerns.
For contractors and companies to avoid such fines, proper training and up-to-date standards practiced is essential.