DuraLabel's Weekly Safety News

Blog Author Angelique Sanders

Weekly safety news. Stay in touch with regulations from OSHA, NFPA, and other safety codes. Find out about other companies' best and worst practices. We scour the internet to provide you with helpful training resources and the latest safety information.

Monday, November 07, 2011

OSHA Fine Could Close Small Company

This article comes from the Hays Daily News, talking about a small company located in Quniter, Kansas.  It is one of three small companies operating in this small town.

The fine resulted from a fatal accident. There appears to be some questions and confusion about how OSHA determined the fine -- the accident was determined to be caused by operator error, but the fine is related to machine guarding.

You can read the article here - OSHA Fine May Close Small Company.

Should the size of a company be a factor in determining the amount of a proposed fine?  What about the company's ability to contest a fine and resolve questionable issues?  A small company does not have the resources to contest a fine.  While for a large company, they easily have the resources to get a fine like this substantially reduced.  For a small company their only option is to lay everyone off and close their doors.  Do you think the size of the fine is reasonable in this instance?

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posted by Steve Hudgik
View This Post - (3 Comments)


Anonymous Robert Watson said...

As a former inspector for OSH&E, I believe the fine is too little. In assessing fines, we have to look at loss of earning potential of that employee over the remaining portion of his working lifetime and social security benefit losses to his family. (After an accident occurs, risk probability drops out of the equation.) However, punishing the business owner; in other than gross negligence cases, is not going to bring the victim back to life or restore a loss of body function. Such accidents are quite rare in Europe as the laws are so much stricter in the European Union. The "Harmonization Criteria" mandates businesses to upgrade equipment when design changes (revisions to ISO and CE-mark (EN standards)) may impact human health, safety, and/or the environment. There is also a requirement for routine visits (# of hours each month) by a workplace physician; occupational physician, and a competent person(s)(CSP or CIH type) depending upon the number of employees; beginning at 5 workers, and increases as the number of workers increases. By contrast, the fork lift truck standard enforced by OSHA is the ASME forklift standard from 1969! ASME has revised the forklift standard several times since then, but OSHA can't legally enforce a "best practice." Contrarily in Europe, strictly business' lobbyists are not on the rulemaking committee(s) or offered the opportunity to comment on the regulations (ala Fed Register) that technical people put into place through independent standard setting technical committees. One company I consulted for had to replace all their gullotine paper cutters with new ones because of changes in the ISO Machine Guarding Standard to comply. My advice to the small business owner; 1) higher a qualified safety consultant to perform a detailed safety, occupational health, fire safety, and environmental audit of your workplace at least annually, and 2) buy insurance that will offset any risk that can't be mitigated within your budget. If you can't manage that then close-up shop; the fines and legal costs for violations will surely put you out of business!

3:20 AM  
Anonymous Robert Watson said...

As a former SOH&E inspector, the courts' determine fines and violations are just a normal part of doing business. What ANY business owner needs to address is an assessment of risk. Where the risk cannot be mitigated to the "reasonable man" standard, then insurance premiums can possibly fill the gap. Of course, when the violation is "willfull" or as the result of "gross negligence" the burdon always shifts fully to the employer as the employee is just acting as an "agent" of the employer. This is why training of employees is so crucial, because of liability considerations. By contrast, in Europe, ANY business with more than 5 full time workers (FTEs) must have a "competent person" (CSP, CIH, etc...) and an occupational physician routinely visit the worksite for a designated number of hours each month. This amount of audit and consulting hours increases as the number of employees increases. The standards too are far stricter under the "Harmonization Criteria" where current industry standards; i.e., ISO, CE-mark (EN), IEEE, etc... are legally enforcable standards IF they impact safety, fire protection, health, and/or the environment. By contrast, the fork (lift)truck standard enforced by OSHA today is based on the 1969 ASME standard... a standard which has been updated several times since then. For example, if the US had European-like enforceable rules, the newest ASME forklift standard would be LAW automatically; i.e., without "A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" in the "Federal Register" or comments from business lobbyists entertained in Congress about how much money it was going to cost them in profits as a mandatory investment in their employees. Shudder the thought!

3:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The size of the company should not make any difference. If they are unsafe, they must pay the penalty. Keeping jobs that are unsafe is not a good way to keep people employed.

10:26 AM  

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