Court Upholds State’s Right to Regulate Workplace Violence

April 09, 2007

The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld regulations adopted by the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board in 2004 to protect convenience store employees from violence at work. The decision states the Environmental Improvement Board has the authority to adopt regulations to protect convenience store workers from violence in the workplace.

“We are excited about this decision because it will help protect convenience store workers from violence on the job,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry. “We will continue to enforce the OSHA regulations that have been in place for two years. As a result of those regulations, New Mexico convenience store workers can go to work knowing there are increased safety measures in place to protect them.”

In 2004, the New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association, Indian Capitol Distributing Co., Inc., Hookinson, Inc. and Every-Ready Oil Co., Inc, appealed the EIB’s adoption of the convenience store safety regulations arguing that the EIB did not have statutory authority to adopt such regulations.

“We hold that the plain language of OSHA and the NMOSHA supports the EIB’s interpretation extending the coverage of these statutes to workplace violence,” stated the decision, which was filed in the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

The New Mexico Legislature passed Joint Memorial 4 in 2003 directing the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau to study the problem of homicides, assaults, robberies and other violent acts against employees at late-night retail establishments, according to the court documents. The EIB subsequently adopted regulations requiring convenience store owners to have at least two employees working at night or provide bullet-proof enclosures, install video surveillance systems, improve lighting, and provide safety training to employees among other requirements.

New Mexico has the only Occupational Health and Safety Bureau in the country to adopt regulations that specifically address measures employers must take to protect convenience store workers from potential violent acts.

$105,500 Fine for Unguarded Saws and Other Hazards

Coreslab Structures Inc. was hit with $105,500 in proposed fines from OSHA for unguarded saw blades and a variety of chemical, fire, and electrical hazards. The Thomaston, Conn., precast concrete products plant was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following an OSHA inspection begun Sept. 28, 2006, in response to a complaint about possible unsafe conditions at the Waterbury Road plant.

OSHA's inspection found that circular saws used to cut wood and plastic stock routinely lacked required guards. These guards are meant to keep any part of an employee's body from coming into contact with a saw's operating blades and prevent stock from kicking back during cutting. The absence of guarding exposes employees to the hazards of lacerations, amputation, or being struck by kicked back materials.

As a result, Coreslab was issued one willful citation, carrying the maximum proposed fine of $70,000, for the lack of guarding. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"Machine guarding is a vital, common, and commonsense safeguard that must not be disregarded by employers," said C. William Freeman III, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "The sizable fine proposed in this case reflects the fact that this employer clearly knew these saws should have been guarded, yet refused to do so."

The company also was issued eight serious citations, with $35,500 in proposed fines, for improper storage of flammable chemicals, blocked access to fire extinguishers, improper saw operation, electrical hazards, unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals, and inadequate machine guarding. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Cites Williamsport, Pa., Company for Machine Guarding Hazards and Other Violations

OSHA has cited Phoenix Trim Works Inc. for alleged safety and health violations and is proposing a total of $111,500 in penalties. The Williamsport textile company, which manufactures decorative trim and specialty fabrics for furniture, has 56 employees.

OSHA initiated its investigation on Sept. 27, 2006, in response to a complaint alleging electrical and machine guarding hazards. The company was issued two willful violations with proposed penalties of $98,000 and 10 serious violations with proposed penalties of $13,500.

Willful violations were issued because of the company's failure to properly guard machinery. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"Without proper machine guarding, the company's employees are at risk of sustaining severe workplace injuries, including crushed fingers or hands, amputations, or blindness," said Andrew Hedesh, director of OSHA's area office in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., which conducted the inspection.

The serious violations include the company's failure to establish procedures to ensure the control of hazardous energy from machines, failure to train employees in the safe operation of powered industrial trucks, and electrical hazards.

$142,550 Fine for Potential Fire, Explosion, and Other Hazards

Conditions that exposed employees to potential fires, explosions, and other hazards have resulted in OSHA issuing $142,550 in proposed fines to a Bristol, Conn., manufacturer of precision springs.

Associated Spring, Barnes Group Inc. was cited for 53 alleged serious violations of safety and health standards at its Main Street factory following OSHA inspections begun in September 2006. These were conducted under an OSHA program that targets workplaces with high instances of lost workdays, restricted duty, or job transfers due to occupational injuries or illnesses.

OSHA found several hazards involving combustible and flammable materials, including the company's failure to control and clean combustible dust generated during the manufacturing process, open containers of flammable liquids, excess amounts of flammable liquids stored on the shop floor, flammable liquids sprayed within five feet of ignition sources, untested and uninspected ventilation systems, and ungrounded and unbonded containers of flammable and combustible liquids.

"The accumulation of combustible dust, some of it near ignition sources, and the failure to prevent its buildup is particularly disturbing since dust explosions usually occur without warning, causing injuries, deaths, and substantial property damage," said C. William Freeman III, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "Other conditions found during the inspections, if left uncorrected, leave employees vulnerable to lacerations, amputations, crushing injuries, electrocution, burns, and hearing loss."

The inspections also identified numerous instances of unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery, defects with lifting chains and slings, improperly maintained forklift trucks, inadequate forklift operator training, electrical hazards, lack of personal protective equipment, lack of timely bloodborne pathogen training, inadequate hazard assessment, and lack of annual audiograms for employees exposed to high noise levels.

OSHA Issues Revised Guide to Help Protect Employees from Amputations

Anyone responsible for the operation, servicing, and care of machines or equipment stands to benefit from a revised OSHA guide designed to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. 


OSHA Publishes Waste Treatment Facility 'Design for Safety' Case Study


A case study describing how the Washington Group International incorporated its design for safety process into the construction of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Facility in eastern Idaho was recently posted on OSHA's Web site.  As a result of the Washington Group's efforts, the positive impact on the safety and health of the project's employees and its bottom-line costs was significant, including 3.3 million hours without a lost time injury or one day away from work.

OSHA to Support 2007 Campaign to Protect Highway Employees

This year's theme, "Signs for Change," reminds drivers to be aware of highway work zones and obey work zone signs. The campaign will run from April 1-7 with a kickoff event being held April 3 at the Route 1 interchange on Interstate 495 approaching the western side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, Va.

NIOSH, Diverse Partners Sign Roadway Work Zone Safety Agreement


NIOSH and partners have formed a new alliance to improve the safety of workers and motorists in roadway construction zones. The alliance will develop hazard awareness training and education programs aimed at Spanish-speaking and other vulnerable highway construction workers about safe practices in roadway work zones. 

OSHA and Long Island Occupational and Environmental Health Center Join Forces on Workplace Safety and Health

Helping Long Island employees and employers identify, address, and prevent work-related health hazards is the goal of a new alliance between OSHA and the Long Island Occupational and Environmental Health Center (LIOEHC).

OSHA and LIOEHC will provide information, guidance and access to training and medical resources for contractors, employers, employees, and employee representatives on Long Island. Education programs and materials will address occupational exposure to such hazardous substances as lead, silica, isocyanates and hexavalent chromium.

"This alliance will be of particular benefit to smaller Long Island employers and their employees who are less likely to have access to medical services and information for prevention and treatment of work-related health hazards," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator.

"Working together and proactively, we hope to achieve our mutual goal of having all employees go home healthy and whole at the end of each workday," said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA's Long Island Area Office.

OSHA and LIOEHC also will share best practices and effective approaches, work together on specific issues and projects related to occupational medicine monitoring, jointly engage in outreach activities, and collaboratively promote and encourage participation in OSHA's cooperative programs.

LIOEHC, housed within the Department of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, is part of a statewide network of centers offering a wide variety of occupational health and safety services to employees, employers, unions, government, and health professionals.

OSHA alliances are part of the Department of Labor's ongoing efforts to improve the safety and health of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and government agencies. OSHA currently has more than 450 alliances throughout the nation.

For information about this and other OSHA alliances and partnerships on Long Island, please contact the compliance assistance specialist in OSHA's Westbury, N.Y., office at 516-334-3344.



Safety News Links