July 15, 2016 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 3Comment

What kind of deal should OSHA cut with an employer after one of his workers has a foot amputated because of an improperly guarded conveyor?

A couple of years later at the same worksite this happens: Both legs of another employee are amputated because of unguarded equipment. What should the deal be this time?

These are the questions in my mind after recently reading an OSHA news release about Seaford Ice during the same week I read the report “OSHA’s Discount on Danger.”

Seaford Ice in Seaford, DE has been the scene of horrific injuries to some of its workers. An employee lost a foot in a machine in June 2012 and almost exactly three years later another employee lost both legs just below the knees. It makes me wonder whether OSHA was tough enough on the employer the first time.

Here’s what we know from OSHA’s on-line records plus documents I obtained through a FOIA request:

  • The employee’s foot was amputated after he slipped into an unguarded rotating auger channel.  OSHA cited it as a serious violation of 1910.212 (machine guarding) and proposed a $2,800 penalty.
  • OSHA also cited the employer for other unguarded machinery, specifically horizontal shafting, a violation of 1910.219 (mechanical power-transmission apparatus.) The agency proposed a $2,400 penalty.
  • In addition, OSHA proposed  inadequately lighted exit routes, no suitable eye wash station, and inadequate training for forklift operators.
  • OSHA proposed a total penalty of $6,800.

Seaford Ice and OSHA negotiated a settlement.  The company agreed:

  • not to contest the citations, and
  • to pay a $4,480 penalty.

OSHA agreed:

  • agreed to reduce the penalty by 30%, from $6,800 to $4,480.

That was the deal.

By the way, Seaford Ice boast of selling more than four million bags of ice per year.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years after the settlement. A Seaford Ice employee falls into an unguarded conveyor. Both his legs are amputated below the knee. Following OSHA’s inspection, the agency announced:

  • A willful violation of  1910.212 (machine guarding) with a proposed penalty of $53,900.
  • Five serious violations including 1910.219 (guarding of mechanical power-transmission apparatus), 1910.147 (lockout/tagout) and 1910.305 (electrical wiring). The proposed penalty for these additional violations was $23,100.

OSHA also had some harsh words about the company:

“Seaford Ice disregarded employee safety by not ensuring a proper guard on the conveyor belt, leading to a preventable amputation. This is unacceptable considering the company knew after the 2012 incident that the machine lacked safeguards to protect workers. Despite this warning, Seaford chose to expose workers to hazards, and a second employee was needlessly injured. When employers fail to provide a safe and healthful workplace, they will be held accountable.”

Seaford Ice and OSHA again negotiated a settlement. OSHA agreed to:

  • give the company a 45% discount on the penalty (i.e., from $77,000 to $42,500);
  • let the company pay off the penalty in monthly installments of $2,300 for a 17-month period; and
  • reclassify the willful violation to a repeat violation.

Seaford Ice agreed to:

  • forego contesting the citations and penalties;
  • use a third-party safety consultant to
    • (a) evaluate the facility’s lockout/tagout program, equipment and machinery, and machine guarding;
    • (b) develop lockout/tagout procedures; and
    • (c) develop written maintenance procedures for all screw conveyors.
  • ensure the third-party safety consultant submits the aforementioned documents to OSHA.

How do you see the deal that OSHA cut with Seaford Ice? Do its managers have enough discretion to negotiate something like this second agreement after a first incident? What do you think? Leave a comment below.

P.S. I notice the agency commenced a follow-up inspection last month at the facility. Perhaps checking to see whether Seaford is following the safety consultant’s recommendations?

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Is OSHA expecting too little from violators?

  1. What? That’s the deal? Where is the requirement “install a guard on this and all similar equipment”? Why is that not a requirement before they are allowed to continue making ice?

    If this company has that little regard for regulations around safe equipment, what makes anyone think that they pay any more attention to any other regulation they’re subject to? Like, say, FDA regulations about no human body pieces in ice sold to be eaten?

    If that’s the most OSHA can/will do I’m not surprised that no one takes them seriously.

  2. Nothing will happen until CEOs start doing jail time. OSHA fines are too low even without the discounts. We need to hold individuals accountable.

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