Archive for the ‘News from OSHA’ Category

Behr Iron & Steel Inc. Pleads Guilty to OSHA Violation Causing Death of Employee

A Rockford-based company pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Iain D. Johnston to willfully violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, resulting in the death of an employee at the company’s facility in South Beloit, Ill.

BEHR IRON & STEEL INC., a high volume ferrous and nonferrous scrap processor, admitted in a plea agreement that on March 10, 2014, the company failed to provide lockout/tagout protection and confined space protection as required under OSHA regulations for the company’s employees who were cleaning a shredder discharge pit.  The company admitted that those violations caused the death of an employee who got caught in a moving, unguarded conveyor belt.

The Company faces a maximum sentence of 5 years’ probation, a maximum fine of $500,000, and restitution to the victim employee in an amount determined by the Court.  Sentencing is scheduled for July 12, 2016, at 1:30 p.m.

The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Ken Nishiyama Atha, Regional Administrator of OSHA in Chicago.

“Justice cannot restore life to the victim whose body was crushed because Behr Iron and Steel failed to provide protection from dangerous machinery on the job,” said Mr. Atha.  “Safety training at the plant was woefully insufficient.  Behr must be held responsible by the courts for ignoring safety standards and failing in its obligation to protect its workers on the job.”

Behr’s South Beloit facility recycles metals contained in such things as automobiles and refrigerators.  According to the plea agreement, OSHA regulations require employers to adopt safety procedures to ensure that dangerous machines are properly shut off and unable to start up again prior to the completion of maintenance or servicing work.  The safety procedures include placing a lock on the power source of the machine and a tag on the lock warning that the machine cannot be operated until the warning is removed, and identifying the employee who has the key to the lock.  OSHA also promulgated regulations that address the need to protect employees from entering a confined space without safety precautions.

Metals shredded through a shredding machine in Behr’s South Beloit facility fall onto a conveyor belt located about ten feet underground in a shredder discharge pit, which was approximately six feet long and six feet wide.  The shredded materials were then moved by a conveyor belt out of the discharge pit and through a sorting process.  Some of the shredded metals fall onto the ground of the discharge pit near the conveyor belt.  One or two Behr employees working on the shredding machine were required to clean the discharge pit on a daily basis.  The employees shoveled shredded materials from the floor of the discharge pit onto the running conveyor belt.

On March 10, 2014, a Behr employee was cleaning the discharge pit when the employee’s arm was caught by the unguarded conveyor belt.  The employee was pulled into the machinery and killed.

Behr admitted that there was no lock or operable emergency shut off switch in the discharge pit for the conveyor belt, and the conveyor belt did not have guards designed to protect employees.  Behr also admitted that employees in the discharge pit were not adequately trained to use the shredder or the conveyor belt, and that the company had not developed and implemented confined space protection for employees entering the discharge pit.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini.

Connecticut steel foundry fined more than $100K

Connecticut steel foundry fined more than $100K for exposing workers to multiple hazards and failing to provide protective equipment

Employees at Connecticut steel foundry exposed to electrical, chemical,
mechanical and fire hazards and lack of protective equipment
$104K in OSHA penalties proposed for PCC Structural-Groton

HARTFORD, Conn. – Employees at PCC Structurals-Groton faced the risk of chemical burns, fire, lacerations, amputations, electric shock and other injuries, inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration have found.

“Our inspections identified a disturbing cross-section of hazards that could result in eye, face or body injuries, burns, or hearing loss for employees at the Groton location, as well as potential fires or explosions. It’s imperative for the health and well-being of its employees that PCC Structurals takes comprehensive, effective and ongoing corrective action to eliminate these hazards,” said Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford.

Located at 839 Poquonnock Road, the Groton facility is a steel-investment casting foundry that casts components for aerospace, energy, and commercial applications. Among the hazards identified during OSHA’s inspections:

  • Lack of hand, face and body protection for employees working on or near electrical equipment.
  • Exposed live electrical parts; misused electrical equipment and power cords; inadequate working space around electrical panelboards; and an ungrounded extension cord.
  • Unguarded points of operation of hydraulic presses.
  • Failure to inspect energy control procedures periodically to prevent the unintended startup of machinery during maintenance and cleaning.
  • No program to inspect chain alloy slings used to lift materials and equipment.
  • Lack of emergency eyewashes where employees worked with corrosive chemicals.
  • Inadequate safety glasses for employees working with chemicals.
  • Inadequately labeled containers of hazardous chemicals.
  • Flammable liquids not stored in closed containers; improper disposal of combustible waste.
  • Unsecured compressed gas cylinders.
  • Incompatible chemicals stored together in a cabinet.
  • Employees exposed to high noise levels not provided with a choice of hearing protection.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited the company for 20 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards on Feb. 19, 2016, with proposed penalties of $90,000. OSHA earlier cited the facility on Jan. 5 for two serious violations concerning inadequate fall protection equipment and an unprotected table saw. Fines of $14,000 were proposed for those violations.

The citations can be viewed here*, here* and here*.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Source

Labor Department Sues Employer for Firing Whistleblower

The Department of Labor is suing a company that allegedly fired a worker for reporting health and safety concerns.

 

whistle blower

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in federal court against a Niagara Falls-based contractor that allegedly fired an employee who reported health and safety concerns.

The suit, which was filed Feb. 19 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, alleges that Regional Environmental Demolition Inc. and its officials – Charles Van Epps and Enrico Liberale – fired a laborer who had expressed concerns about safety after OSHA contacted the employer about an anonymous complaint.

The demolition and asbestos abatement laborer had been working on an asbestos abatement project in Buffalo and noticed “soft spots” – deteriorated sections of floor. During the time he worked on the project (from April to June 2014), he reported on multiple occasions his concerns about the safety hazard to officials at the company.

The worker then was fired in June 2014 after OSHA contacted the company in response to an anonymous complaint it had received. The worker subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint to OSHA, which found merit in the claim.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives us the authority to sue employers who retaliate against employees in safety and health matters. We will do so when the case warrants, as it does here,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York.

In its lawsuit, the Department of Labor is looking for payment of lost wages and compensatory damages, interest, front pay, emotional and financial distress damages and punitive damages to the worker; and for the matter to be erased from his personnel record.

“Regional Environmental Demolition had no reason and no right to fire this worker for repeatedly reporting a safety hazard that could have seriously harmed him and his fellow workers. Firing or retaliating against workers who raise safety concerns is intimidation, plain and simple. If employees fear losing their jobs, hazards can go unreported and injuries can result,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

The lawsuit also calls for the court to make Regional Environmental Demolition post a notice to employees announcing that they will not discriminate against workers who raise health and safety concerns.  

Connecticut Contractor Misclassified Employees as Independent Contractors

OSHA administrative law judge rules that Connecticut contractor misclassified employees as independent contractors

Date of action: Feb. 1, 2016

Type of action: Decision and Order

Names of defendant: David Dzenutis dba Royal Construction Company, a roofing contractor in Canton, Connecticut.

Background: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Royal Construction for seven violations of workplace safety standards at a Farmington work site. A total of $20,240 in fines was proposed. Royal Construction filed a notice of contest with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in August 2014 and litigation commenced.

Royal Construction claimed that the workers at the job site were not employees under the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act but instead independent contractors who worked under their own supervision, supplied their own tools and made their own hours.

Decision: After review, Administrative Law Judge Keith E. Bell found that the Labor Department established the following:

  • Royal Construction had employees at the job site, and provided materials, tools, trailer and equipment needed for the project.
  • Dzenutis had control over the workers and work site safety.
  • Royal Construction determined when and for how long the individuals worked; the work was done as part of the regular business of Royal Construction.
  • The company paid hourly wages to the individuals working at the site.

Judge Bell also upheld the citations and proposed penalties. The full court decision and order can be read here*.

Quote: “Employers cannot evade their responsibility by claiming that workers on a job site are independent contractors when the facts show otherwise. We will not hesitate to pursue appropriate legal action to ensure that workers are provided with the safeguards to which they are entitled,” said Michael Felsen, the regional solicitor of labor for New England.

“Judge Bell’s decision and order upholds a basic tenet of the OSH Act, the employer/employee relationship. Employers have a fundamental responsibility to their employees, to provide them with a safe and healthful workplace,’ said Kim Stille, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England.

The original inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Hartford Area Office. The case was litigated for OSHA by attorney Mark Pedulla of the regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston.

Project supervisor jailed in construction accident that killed Mississauga dad, three others

Four workers, including one from Mississauga, died when they fell 14 storeys at an Etobicoke construction site back on Christmas Eve, 2009.

Monday in a Toronto courtroom, the project manager involved the deadly scaffolding collapse, one of the worst workplace accidents in the GTA in recent memory, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

Vadim Kazenelson, a former supervisor for Metron Construction, was found guilty last June of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily injury for the Dec. 24, 2009 incident at 2757 Kipling Ave.

Vladimir Korostin, 40, of Mississauga, and Toronto residents Aleksey Blumberg, 32, Alexander Bondorev, 25, and Fayzullo Fazilov, 31, were killed when their scaffold collapsed at the Kipling Ave. apartment building under construction.

Then-21-year-old Dilshod Mamurov, who was not secured properly to his lifeline, clung briefly to the broken equipment before falling and suffering broken legs and a broken spine.

A sixth worker, Shohruh Tojiddinov, who was properly connected to his harness, survived unharmed. Tojiddinov previously testified in court that, as project manager, Kazenelson didn’t insist crew members be attached to lifelines. He also testified Kazenelson asked him to lie about the incident afterward.

Metron Construction was ordered to pay a $750,000 fine after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing death in 2012.

scaffold accident

The company’s owner, Joel Swartz, was also ordered to pay $112,500 after pleading guilty to four violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Evidence showed Metron’s scaffold had a defective design that could not withstand the weight of the workers and their equipment. There were also not enough lifelines to secure the workers.

Korostin, a divorced father of two, always put his girls first, and left Israel in part because he worried about them doing mandatory military service once they completed high school, family members said.

He also thought Canada would be a better fit for his family, who are Orthodox Christian and originally from the tiny community of Guzar, Uzbekistan, which is predominantly Muslim.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) meanwhile, launched a “Kill a Worker, Go to Jail” campaign immediately after the tragedy and called the sentencing decision for Kazenelson “historic” and noted that “his conviction and sentencing is the first of its kind in Ontario.”

“This court has the opportunity to make history by throwing Mr. Kazenelson behind bars, but justice won’t be fully served as long as only supervisors go to jail,” OFL President Chris Buckley said in a prepared statement before Monday’s hearing.