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Employer on OSHA Severe Violator List Fined $1.76 Million Over Widespread Employee Injuries

    Client Alerts
  • February 20, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration maintains a Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) that concentrates inspection and enforcement resources on employers alleged to have committed repeated or willful violations. Employers subject to SVEP face mandatory follow-up inspections following violations, enhanced civil penalties and the threat of court-supervised enforcement actions under Section 11 of the OSH Act.

Earlier this month, OSHA leveled a proposed $1.76 million fine against a SVEP employer accused of widespread safety violations that led to over 1000 workplace injuries in the last 3.5 years. OSHA announced its action against Ashley Furniture, a Wisconsin manufacturer employing over 4500 persons. OSHA claims that the company intentionally disabled safety equipment on woodworking machinery in order to increase production speed and efficiency. In a follow-up inspection under SVEP, OSHA accused the manufacturer of 12 willful, 12 repeat and 14 serious safety violations.

Employers can enter the SVEP in several ways. If OSHA finds repeat or willful violations, or concludes that the employer fails to abate serious safety problems following an inspection, it can seek special enforcement emphasis. However, employers that do not demonstrate a willful failure to follow safety rules can still find themselves subject to SVEP based on employee injury rates alone. Given the increased regulatory scrutiny and enhanced penalties, employers facing safety issues or an increase in employee incidents should take serious measures to avoid attracting special OSHA attention.