Rely on Occupational Safety & Health ReporterSM for full news coverage and documentation of federal and state workplace safety and health programs, standards, legislation,...
One year into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited 182 workplaces, according to agency inspection numbers.
The information shows that construction firms were cited nearly two-thirds of the time and that the most prevalent reason for earning a spot on the list was an inspection uncovering “high-gravity violations” of OSHA regulations in industries covered by OSHA emphasis programs such as grain handling.
BNA obtained the SVEP data through a Freedom of Information Act request made in April. In early July, OSHA posted the same data plus a month's worth of updates on its public website.
The directive for SVEP, CPL 02-00-149, became enforceable on June 18, 2010, as the agency aimed to discipline employers charged with committing serious, and often repeat violations (40 OSHR 355, 4/29/10).
“Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees,” Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels wrote when OSHA debuted SVEP (40 OSHR 355, 4/29/10).
OSHA officials declined requests for interviews about SVEP's inaugural year. However, in a July 7 written statement to BNA, the agency said, “OSHA is monitoring the program closely and we believe the program has been effective.” The agency intends to evaluate SVEP after the close of fiscal 2011 to determine whether any modifications should be made, the statement added.
When SVEP debuted, OSHA officials expected most of the employers placed in the program would be construction companies, and that has been the trend. Of the 182 employers cited, 112 (61 percent) were listed by as construction. Of the construction businesses, 66 were specialty trade contractors and 31 were involved in heavy construction.
Manufacturing accounted for 35 (19 percent) of the violators, and nondurable goods wholesalers were cited 13 times (7 percent).
Most employers in the SVEP program got there because they were cited for “high-gravity violations” related to an OSHA designated “high-emphasis hazard. Of the 182 employers, 109 (60 percent) made the list because of such violations.
The gravity of the violation is determined by the severity of the injury or illness that could occur and the likelihood of injury or illness. A high-emphasis hazard, according to the SVEP directive, is a risk related to violations of OSHA's rules for fall hazards, construction, grain handling, shipyard work, marine terminal operations or longshoring; National Emphasis Programs covering amputation, combustible dust, crystalline silica, or shipbreaking; or special emphasis programs on excavation and trenching hazards.
Fatalities were the next highest reason for SVEP designations, with 32 companies (18 percent) cited. A death triggers SVEP if there is at least one citation for willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notice for a severe violation.
OSHA's Region 5, covering the upper Midwest, issued the most SVEP citations. The region's 60 notices represented one third of citations nationwide. Region 2, covering the Northeast, had the second-highest total with 35 citations (19 percent). A spokeswoman for Region 2, Leni Uddyback-Fortson, said the region's high percentage of citations were in line with region's share of all OSHA citations and is not an indication that the region was issuing an unusually high amount of SVEP citations.
On the settlement side, there have been 14 “enhanced settlements,” agreements that require a violator to hire an outside safety consultant to help develop a safety plan, and seven informal settlements. Two companies have been removed from the SVEP list, an indication that the original citation was deleted or overturned by a later review.
A handful of employers had multiple workplaces cited under the SVEP, part of OSHA's efforts to inspect a business's other locations if severe problems are found at one site. Among those employers were Gavilon Grain, with seven citations; U.S. Minerals, with five citations; Cooperative Plus, a Midwest agricultural cooperative, with four citations; Girardi Sewer and Water, with four citations; Lucas Oil Production Studios, three citations; and Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., with two citations.
Eric Hobbs, an attorney with Michael, Best, and Friedrich LLP, representing Cooperative Plus, told BNA July 13 that the company had negotiated a proposed settlement with OSHA, that he hoped would have a judge's approval by the end of August. Hobbs objected to OSHA's referring to the farmer-led cooperative as a severe violator.
“Labeling them as a severe violator is out of proportion to reality,” Hobbs said.
A spokeswoman for Gavilon Grain, Deb Ahl, said it would not be appropriate for Gavilon to comment about the citations because they are open cases.
Cooper Tire spokeswoman Michelle Zeisloft said Cooper is contesting the citations and would not make additional comments at this time.
By Bruce Rolfsen
OSHA's updated list of severe violators is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8jqr5g .
The SVEP directive is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8jqr42 .
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)