R.K. Wallace Construction Inc. was a subcontractor for MS Sports Medicine project in Flowood, Mississippi. During an inspection conducted by an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer, an employee of R.K. Wallace Construction Inc. was found operating a hand angle grinder to cut metal without wearing the appropriate eye or face protection. Employees working without the proper personal protective equipment place themselves at risk of serious injuries that may include burns to the skin/eye tissue as well as blindness. The OSHA inspector also found five other employees working without fall protection systems during the inspection. The employees were working on a roof structure wearing safety harnesses without lanyards or ropes connecting the harness to an anchorage point on the roof structure. No other fall protection system was found during the inspection. Failure to ensure the employees worked with fall protection systems created the risk of them falling off the roof. These violations were found to be “serious” because they placed employees in danger of permanent injuries such as broken bones, paralysis, and death.
Burden Of Proof
Employer knowledge is necessary to meet burden of proof standard of the alleged violation of OSHA regulations. Knowledge is proven when the employer knows of, or with “exercise of reasonable diligence could have known of the non-complying condition.” The knowledge of non-complying condition is demonstrated by the actions of the worksite’s superintendent. The superintendent at the worksite had over twenty years experience in construction and was aware of the eye-protection requirements. The Secretary of Labor ruled the superintendent’s knowledge was imputed to the company because he was present at the worksite and should have known of the violative conduct if he had exercised due diligence.
R.K. Wallace Construction Inc. had previously been cited for the same citation of the fall protection standard. This standard provides that employees in steel erection activity on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side more than 15 feet above the lower level be protected from fall hazards. Fall protections include guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, and fall restraint systems. This standard applies to “employers engaged in steel erection” which R.K. Wallace Construction Inc. was involved in.
The gravity of the violation and size of employer, history of violation, and good faith are taken into consideration when assessing penalty fees. The Occupational Safety Health Review Commission (OSHRC) initially recommended a penalty of $12,934 for the serious violation and $129,336 for the repeated violation. The gravity of the OSHA violation for exposing employee’s face and eyes to molten metal sparks took into consideration the likelihood of injury as well as extent of the exposure to the harm. It was considered “high” because the injury could result in burns and blindness, but the probability of injury was also lessened due to the short amount of time employees were exposed to the hazard. Employees were exposed to the hazard for 45 minutes in a span of two days. OSHA reduced the penalty by 30 percent because the company has less than 50 employees. It also increased the penalty by 10 percent because R.K. Wallace Construction Inc. because of its poor inspection history. R.K. Wallace Construction Inc. was fined for penalties of $7,114.00 and $49,796.00 for the violations of citation 1 and 2 respectively.
Construction work requires projects to be finished quickly and on time. This often leads to employees pressured to work faster and skip steps designed to protect their safety. Eye safety glasses, fall protection equipment, and respirators designed for the protection of worker health and safety often are not given importance in order to save time. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) ensures that workers short-term or long-term health are not adversely affected. The use of PPE by employees should be seen as a benefit to employers as well. The use of PPE provides for a healthy workforce and cost-savings for employers. A healthy workforce that uses PPE properly is one that is free from additional costs citations from the government or lawsuits from employees. A healthy workforce reduces productivity with employees taking time off from work to get well, as well as hiring and training employees to replace persons injured on the job.
If you want to save money, make sure your employees start work always thinking about safety first. For more information on how to lower your costs, liabilities, and keeping your workforce healthy and productive call Whitcomb Selinsky P C at (866) 476-4558 or complete an online contact form.