If any business doubts that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has changed its practices with regard to monetary citations, a recent fine involving an Ohio vinyl tile manufacturer should catch their attention. Last week, the agency cited the employer for over $1.2 million in fines, including multiple willful and repeat violations associated with an alleged lack of machine guarding and employee injuries associated with machine operating practices.
The employer was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2017 and has had seven employee injuries relating to machine operating practices since that date. OSHA also noted a number of safety violations relating to lockout/tagout procedures and tripping and burn hazards.
Long gone are the days when paying OSHA fines was simply a cost of doing business. The agency is making good on its threats to raise the level of fines for what it perceives as serial violators to the point where the employer is forced to devote attention and resources to workplace safety efforts. Employers that have experienced recent OSHA inspections and citations should be aware that failure to fully address these issues could place them in danger of being deemed severe violations, with all of the scrutiny, adverse publicity, and financial consequences that accompany that classification.