I often hear the horror stories of OSHA experiences. Some are determined to be embellishments of an actual experience, but others justify certain levels of outrage and frustration. I receive a monthly publication listing the results of OSHA inspections conducted in the state of Kentucky. I was just reading the January edition of the publication and thought I would share with you a few findings that help to fuel the feelings people may have against OSHA. This could explain why OSHA gets a bad rap.
In an event where two employees were killed after anhydrous ammonia was released while repairing a freezer pump, the employer was fined a total of $17,500. Now the interesting part about this is that 29% ($5,000) of the total dollar amount was because the employer did not notify OSHA within eight hours of being aware of the fatalities.
In another situation, OSHA discovered five employees working on a roof 19 feet above the ground with no fall protection that netted (no pun intended) a serious violation of $2,500. So, this could leave one to think that delaying a phone call to OSHA after a fatality is twice as bad as actually exposing employees to a potential death hazard?
I also found an occurrence where not having an emergency eyewash and shower was labeled as a serious violation and was accompanied with a monetary penalty of $4,500, yet the same violation was listed as an “other than serous” with no monetary penalty for another employer.
In a situation with an employee who had a finger amputated, the hazards that caused the amputation were listed as a serious violation and cost the employer $4,500. The employer was then fined $3,250 for not reporting the event within 72 hours. Once again are we saying not reporting the event is almost as serious as the actual hazard that caused the event?
Now this one boggles my mind! Another employer was fined $6,600 due to an employee injury, but the entire monetary portion of the citation revolved around not reporting and not recording the injury. The ensuing OSHA inspection found that the area around a cooker tank was not kept in a clean and dry condition and that the employer did not have proper lockout/tagout procedures in place nor have proper training certification for forklift operators. Total dollar amount for those findings? Zero dollars. Yes, I said zero dollars.
Further down the page, I saw where a little “mom and pop” deli near my house was fined $1,250 for some water on the floor from a leaky roof. So is OSHA telling me grease and oil on the floor around a cooker tank isn’t a hazard but water is?
One of the most frustrating inspection outcomes was when Kentucky OSHA fined a nonprofit charity organization “Methodist Mountain Mission” $250 for a toilet that “did not flush properly”. Based on these findings, I can only assume an improperly flushing toilet is more serious than improper lockout procedures?
Now I don’t pretend to know all the details around these events, but it doesn’t take much to see what could be perceived as significant inconsistencies in enforcement and levels of seriousness. You want to know why OSHA sometimes gets a bad rap? I think this explains it.
Note: So they can get back to clothing and finding gainful employment for the poor in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, I inserted a link to the Methodist Mountain Mission of KY just in case you might like to donate to their OSHA fine fund.