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Recent OSHA Fines and Investigations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently proposed fines or announced investigations into unsafe conditions and fatal accidents at several plants across the country. OSHA is a federal regulatory agency whose enforcement of workplace safety laws is designed to keep employees safe on the job.

Following the January 18 death of an employee in the Nebraska Prime Group's Hastings meatpacking plant, OSHA has proposed fining the parent company, Hastings Acquisition LLC, $195,000. The fatality occurred when the employee got caught in a piece of machinery and asphyxiated. According to OSHA findings, the machine was not equipped with proper safety guarding, allowing the accident to occur.

In the wake of the proposed fines, the company has several options: it can comply with OSHA's orders for required safety improvements and pay the accompanying fine, it can request an information conference with the regional OSHA director or it can contest the findings in front of an independently convened commission.

Brown-Campbell Corp. has been cited by OSHA for 19 safety violations at its Maple Heights, Ohio steel product manufacturing plant. The agency has also proposed fines totaling $64,000. In December 2011, OSHA inspectors discovered that employees at the facility were not given appropriate protective clothing; they also noted that several machines were not equipped with sufficient guarding. The company was also cited for failing to train employees in hazard communication processes and failing to establish lockout/tagout procedures to control the use of potentially hazardous energy.

OSHA is also investigating the May deaths of two employees who were killed in an explosion at a Pascagoula, Mississippi fertilizer plant. Two other employees were also seriously injured in the accident. The explosion was the second experienced at that plant in recent months, and OSHA is investigating both incidents.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited the Mississippi Phosphates Corporation's plant for improper safety equipment, improper storage and chemical leaks on the plant's grounds. In February 2012, the EPA reached an agreement with the company on the necessary corrective actions they must take, with a total bill of about $2.5 million to fix the problems. OSHA also said that the company had been fined $20,000 and had corrected the four serious safety violations the agency discovered in 2009.