More “severe violators” designated by OSHA

OSHA’s list of bad actors has two new members. I just happened upon an updated list on the agency’s website of the employers OSHA designates as “severe violators.” It indicates the two companies were added in the four weeks following President Trump’s inauguration. The list is dated April 7, 2017.

Mosier Industrial Services was involved in the gutting of a hundred year-old power plant in Columbus, Ohio. The project developers, Connect Realty and Schiff Capital Group, plan to convert the site into  offices and event space.

OSHA inspectors issued citations on February 2 against Mosier Industrial Services for two willful and 13 serious violations. The willful violations involved the firm’s failure to provide fall protection for workers performing tasks at heights. Among others, the serious violations related to gas cutting and welding operations, including failing to provide appropriate fire protection while workers were performing those tasks. The total penalties proposed are $259,842 and Mosier Industrial Services has contested OSHA’s findings.

A reporter with the Columbus, Ohio publication Business First toured the abandoned structure in June 2016. He said:

“The whole complex feels like the bowels of an abandoned ship, with cracked gauges and knobs and levers.”

He indicated the price tag on the restoration effort is $20.2 million.  I bet the developers’ contract with Mosier Industrial included some fine print about complying with all applicable federal laws, including safety regulations.

Mosier insists it puts a premium on “personal service and, above all, safety.”

“Safety is our number-one priority at all times, continuous training and education ensures our team members are qualified to operate their designated equipment and always keep safety at the forefront of everything they do.”

The second new addition to OSHA’s severe violator list is Kreisel Home Improvement Company. Their renovation of a very old home was the site of a fatal work-related injury in October 2016. David Kreisel, 63, was working of the roof of home built in 1896 in the city of Amsterdam, New York. He fell 25 feet to the ground when a porch roof collapsed and he died from his injuries.

OSHA inspectors cited Kreisel Home Improvement Company with a willful violation for failing to provide appropriate fall protection and a serious violation for an inadequate training program on fall hazards. The penalty proposed by OSHA is $139,424 which the company is contesting.

OSHA’s Severe Violator program commenced in 2010. Employers are designated for the program for repeated and willful violations of high-hazard , which results potentially in nationwide follow-up inspections. There are currently about 500 employers on the agency’s list of severe violators.

One worst of the worst of these bad actors has to be Atlantic Drain of Boston, MA. It landed on OSHA’s severe violator list in 2012 for repeated and willful violations of excavation safety standards. These rules are designed to prevent workers from being trapped in a cave-in of soil. OSHA responded to complaints against the company and issued more citations (here, here). Then in October 2015, two employees of Atlantic Drain, Robert Higgens, 53 and Kelvin Mattocks, 53, died in a trench collapse. OSHA commenced yet another inspection.

Three months after the deaths of Higgens and Mattocks, the Suffolk County District Attorney indicted the owner of Atlantic Drain, Kevin Otto, on manslaughter charges for their deaths. OSHA issued more citations against the firm which were announced last week. The penalty proposed by OSHA is $1.47 million. Labor Department spokesperson Ted Fitzgerald, told the CBS local in Boston that the steep penalty is atypical:

“We’ve only had two cases in New England in the past 20 years in which the proposed penalties exceeded $1 million.”

I don’t know what portion of severe workplace safety violators transform into responsible employers after getting that OSHA label. I hope many of them do. Atlantic Drain’s Kevin Otto is not one of them and I hope jail time is in his future.