OSHA, a regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Labor, employs training, inspections, and fines to ensure safe working conditions. In a previous blog post on workplace safety, we looked at an incident that took place in July 2022 at a Caterpillar foundry in Texas. One employee was killed. OSHA found that Caterpillar failed to address fall hazards.
In this blog, we will look at OSHA’s news releases on enforcement. These releases contain news briefs that update the public on OSHA’s enforcement. They also contain trade releases that serve as reminders or updates to regulatory or record-keeping practices. And national or regional releases disclosing employer violations and penalties.
As of this writing, there are two national releases in January 2023. The latest concerns Dollar General. Stores in Florida and Alabama had merchandise blocking exit routes. This creates fire and entrapment hazards for workers. And the store in Alabama also had boxes stored in unstable stacks, creating struck-by hazards. The proposed fines for these hazards are roughly $387,000. Since 2017, OSHA inspections of Dollar General, and its subsidiary Dolgencorp, have led to more than $15 million in fines.
The second national release reported on ergonomic hazards at three Amazon warehouses in Florida, Illinois, and New York. According to the release, “OSHA investigators found Amazon warehouse workers at high risk for lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders” due to repetitive lifting of heavy packages and the awkward movements required to complete tasks.
The rest of the news releases come from OSHA’s regional offices. Steam explosions at two foundries in Ohio led to severe injuries and deaths. OSHA determined one company did not provide proper training or personal protective equipment. The second company failed to implement safety procedures that could have prevented the explosion caused when water mixed with molten metal.
Other violations included failure to deenergize electrical equipment, which resulted in a fatal arc flash; exposure to respiratory and confined space hazards at a company that supplies malt to breweries; and exposure to deadly falls at a roofing company in New Jersey.
OSHA publishes these enforcement releases because they are required to do so under the Freedom of Information Act. But they serve as a reminder of the hazards workers routinely face, the procedures and equipment that employers are required to provide employees in order to minimize or prevent such hazards, and the loss of life that can occur when employers neglect these responsibilities.