6 Companies in 6 Midwest States are Placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program

by Janet Scanlon 08 Sep. 2015

In continuing our observance of Labor Day here in the U.S., and our theme for this week’s blog, we take a look at some of the recent enforcement activity by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) throughout the Midwest Region. One unfortunate trend that is hardly going unnoticed is the rise in the number of companies placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Recent Enforcement Cases: Midwest Region

Illinois: Two Illinois construction companies face close to $2,000,000 in fines after OSHA inspection results in “16 egregious, nine willful, and six serious violations,” after companies exposed workers to asbestos hazards while working on a construction project. Kehrer Brothers have since been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Indiana: Sherwood Tower Service, a communication tower company that specializes in communication tower painting and maintenance faces $114,800 in fines and was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program after employee dies after falling nine stories while painting a communication tower. Two willful and one serious safety violation were issued after the company failed to provide adequate fall protection. Sherwood Tower received a serious violation after OSHA inspectors discovered that the company had no safety and health program.

Iowa: United States Postal Service (USPS) faces $49,000 penalty after OSHA inspection finds main post office in Des Moines operating one forklift and two tugs “without such functioning flashing lights.” OSHA issued one repeated and two serious safety violations. These serious safety violations stem from USPS failing to repair the malfunctioning forklift and keeping the machine operational despite the malfunction.

Kansas: One repeat and sixteen serious safety violations were issued to Super Holding, Inc., a boiler manufacturer, after OSHA found the company exposing workers to health and safety hazards including amputation and falls. Violations include, “not providing machine guarding to protect workers from moving machinery, exposing workers to falls of up to 13 feet due to unguarded open-sided floors or platforms, struck-by hazards from overhead cranes, lack of personal protective equipment, electrical safety hazards, failing to implement a written program for respiratory protection, fire hazards, and failing to implement a program for permit required confined spaces.” The company faces $60,060 in fines.

Michigan: Nicholson Terminal & Dock Company, a marine cargo handling company, was cited with nine violations after an employee was killed by a forklift carrying a 40,000-pound steel coil. One willful violation was issued as a result of “modifications that might affect the powered industrial trucks capacity or safety were performed without either the manufacturer's prior written approval, or the written approval of a professional engineer experienced with the equipment who had consulted with the manufacturer.” Another was issued because “vehicular routes, traffic rules, and parking areas were not established, identified. Signs indicating pedestrian traffic were not clearly posted at vehicular check-in and check-out lines and similar locations where employees could be working.” Seven serious safety violations were issued with the majority revolving around forklift safety. The company faces fines of $168,700.

Minnesota: Already in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, Ashley Furniture is once again cited for health and safety violations. After a July inspection, OSHA fines the furniture manufacturer for failing to protect workers from moving machine parts, not reporting a hospitalization within 24 hours, as well as for failing to keep accurate injury records.  They currently face a penalty of $82,500. According to OSHA, “the company has had 34 federal OSHA inspections and 23 state plan inspections since 1982. In its 33 previous inspections, OSHA issued citations for 96 serious, four repeated and 38 other-than-serious violations. Four inspections were initiated as a result of finger amputations, including one in 2014 at the Arcadia plant.”

Missouri: While investigating how a worker had four fingers amputated in a recycling machine, OSHA inspectors discovered serious combustible dust hazards (including sources of ignition) at the Wahlco Recycling Plant, a baby diaper recycling facility. As a result, the company was cited for one repeated, and 12 serious safety and health violations. This however is not the first time that the company has been issued a citation for not having machine safe guards, after receiving one for this in 2013. Wahlco Recycling Plant now faces penalties of $74,480.

Nebraska: On August 26, 2015, MP Global Products LLC, a Nebraska flooring company, received two willful, 22 serious and one other-than-serious safety violation, as well as was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, after being found concealing hazards as OSHA investigated the amputation and severe injury of an employee’s hand after it was caught in a machine while operating it. During the inspection, OSHA discovered MP Global was hiding a production line from inspectors, operating machinery that lacked safety guards and exposed workers to amputation hazards, not providing adequate training on machine safety or vehicle operation, electrical safety hazards, defective industrial power trucks in operation, and other safety hazards. Inspectors also discovered that the company threatened employees with termination if caught revealing unsafe working conditions. The company now faces a penalty of $244,000.

North Dakota: Since 1997, Northern Excavating Co. has been cited eight times for allowing employees to work in trenches without cave-in protection and a safe means to exit the trench. Their latest citation resulted after a July 2014 inspection by OSHA found workers exposed to cave-in hazards while working in an 8-foot trench repairing a city water line. The company received two willful and one serious violation and were added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. They also face penalties of $147,000.

Ohio: On August 13, 2015, OSHA cited Case Farms Processing Inc., a chicken processor, for two willful, 20 repeat, 30 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations after finding that the company knowingly exposed their workers to numerous amputation, electrocution and fall hazards.  This is not the first time Case Farms Processing has been cited for such violations, as the company is notorious for their history of violating federal safety and health hazards. Over the past 24 years, OSHA has issued 350 citations for health and safety violations. The company has been added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program and face a fine of $861,500.

Wisconsin: Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., was recently issued two willful violations and two other-than-serious safety violations after an employee suffered an amputation while operating machinery at the company’s Arcadia location. According to OSHA, “OSHA found that Ashley failed to protect workers from dangerous machine operating parts when employees performed maintenance and during blade changes on woodworking machinery.” The company was also negligent in keeping accurate injury records as well as reporting hospitalization within 24 hours. This is not the first time the Arcadia location was cited. In January 2015, the company was cited for 38 safety violations. This was the result of an OSHA investigation that discovered more than 1,000 work-related injuries have occurred at the Arcadia location over the past 3 years. Ashley Furniture is contesting these violations and a hearing before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission is forthcoming. The company currently faces penalties of $1.7 million and was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. 

(Please note this is by no means a comprehensive listing of all current enforcement cases, but instead a handful of cases seen throughout the 50 states over the past year that we at Enhesa have been following.)

Interested in reading more in-depth details of the cases mentioned above? Check outOSHA's Enforcement Press Releases.