Archive for January, 2016

OSHA Argues it Can Protect Workers with Enterprise-Wide Abatement Orders

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyMany businesses have multiple locations, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cannot necessarily inspect every single location because the agency is understaffed and inspections are not as common as they should be. OSHA generally conducts an investigation of a particular business place, identifies workplace hazards at the worksite which was inspected, and requires abatement of problems which are identified during the inspection. Now, however, OSHA is going to trial to argue enterprise-wide abatement is also a power of the agency.

Workers deserve to be protected in Rhode Island and if an employer is violating particular hazards repeatedly in one location, it is possible similar violations are occurring at all of its locations. Enterprise-wide abatement orders could save time for OSHA and could impose more requirements on employers to ensure all of their work sites are safe. This could help to reduce injuries and resulting workers’ compensation claims which occur when employees get injured on-the-job.

Can OSHA Order Enterprise-Wide Abatement?

The OSHA case on enterprise-wide abatement centers around OSHA’s inspection of Central Transport LLC. Safety News Alert reports OSHA inspected a particular shipping terminal of the company and found 14 violations. OSHA fined the company $380,800. The problems causing the fine dealt with forklifts which should have been removed from service as directed by OSHA standard 1910.178(p)(1), but which were not removed from service.

The forklifts had issues including damaged tires, leaky batteries, non-functional lights, non-functional horns, and a variety of other problems. This was not the first time the company has had problems, with the shipper receiving 11 final order citations for violating the same OSHA standard since 2006. Eight of the past violations were repeat violations.

Central Transport appealed OSHA’s violations and in a complaint made to Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), OSHA requested an order be entered requiring the shipping company to comply with the OSHA forklift standard not just at the location which had been inspected but at all of its locations. This meant OSHA was asking for enterprise-wide abatement. The shipping company filed a motion asking OSHRC to dismiss the order asking for enterprise-wide abatement.

An administrative law judge for OSHRC denied the request and ordered the case to trial for a decision to be made on whether enterprise-wide abatement is appropriate or not. A regional solicitor of labor for New England indicated the decision was precedent setting because it was “the first decision by an OSHA Administrative Law Judge expressly finding that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission may have the authority under the OSH Act to order abatement measures beyond the specific violations identified in the citations.”

If it is determined these orders are appropriate, many more people could be protected because OSHA could require companies to come into compliance with standards at every one of their locations even without the Agency expending the manpower to specifically conduct an investigation and find violations at each location.