Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law. Although the scene for this blog post comes from a business in New Jersey, the scenario occurs all too often in businesses across the nation. Fortunately, an injury or death was not the catalyst for officials to be notified of the hazards. But it’s frustrating that the right for workers to be safe is often trumped by what employers see as the need for speed or profit. And I’m not convinced that OSHA’s fines deter companies from taking safety shortcuts frequently. So please work to be safe at work and at play.
Warehouse worker suffer unique risks associated with their employment. Many warehouse workers suffer injuries at work that lead to seriously disabling Worker’s Compensation claims. U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken a major step in enforcing regulations in Jersey City,New Jersey, in an effort to make the work environment safer.
OSHA has cited Continental Terminals Inc. for nine serious and two willful safety violations at the company’s Jersey City facility. Inspectors were notified of alleged hazards at the facility while they were inspecting another Continental facility in Kearny. Proposed penalties total $130,900.>
The willful violations involve not protecting workers by allowing them to ride on the forks of forklifts, where they were exposed to falls of 10 feet, and permitting them to work on elevated platforms devoid of guardrails. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowledge or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The citations carry $98,000 in penalties. The serious violations include having exit doors that were sealed shut, allowing damaged powered industrial trucks to be operated, stacking materials insecurely, not having a hazard communication program, using damaged electrical cords and not labeling electrical panels. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The citations carry $32,900 in penalties.
“Because fall hazards are among the leading cause of death among workers, it is vital that employers provide workers with proper fall protection,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Employers are responsible for ensuring safe and healthful workplaces, and will be held legally accountable when they fail to do so.”
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Continental_408905_1026_12.pdf.*
Continental Terminals Inc. is a coffee and cocoa warehouse business that employs 10 workers at its Jersey City site; it was recently fined $162,400 by OSHA for safety violations at its Kearny site. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a campaign to provide employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry. In 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights, and more than 250 workers were killed. OSHA’s fall prevention campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program. More information on fall protection standards is available in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls.