Western NY U-Haul Fined for Failure to Protect Employees

September 17, 2004

A Tonawanda, NY, moving company was fined for failing to protect its employees. U-Haul of Western New York received fines totaling $73,200 following an OSHA investigation stemming from employee complaints.

OSHA officials say inspections conducted this summer at the Buffalo-area truck-rental companyÆs facilities turned up several serious violations. These included situations in which employees were working with chemicals, including germicides, cleansers, and antifreeze during truck cleaning and maintenance. OSHA inspectors say workers were not properly informed that they were working with dangerous materials.

U-Haul was cited for eight repeat and serious violations of federal law for failing to adequately inform workers of potential hazards. The company has until October 3, 2004, to request a meeting with OSHA officials or to contest the charges before a review commission.

Final Rule Published on Fire Protection for Shipyard Employment

A new rule announced by OSHA affords the same level of protection against fire hazards to shipyard workers as is enjoyed by employees in other industries.

The Fire Protection in Shipyard Employment final rule was developed through the negotiated rulemaking process and will provide increased protection from fire hazards for nearly 100,000 workers in the shipbuilding, ship repair and ship breaking industries.

Scheduled to be published in tomorrow's Federal Register, the final rule incorporates 19 consensus standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It includes relevant information from other sources, including OSHA's general industry standard on fire protection, as well as procedures from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.

The standard requires a written fire watch policy and also discontinues the practice of allowing workers who perform hot work such as welding, cutting, or grinding to act as their own fire watch. The rule also affords employers flexibility by allowing them to rely on a combination of fire response organizations (e.g., internal, external, or both) rather than requiring them to establish internal fire brigades.

The new standard will impact approximately 700 employers, and covers all fire response provided by the employers' workers, whether part of a fire brigade, shipyard fire department, or designated by the employer. OSHA is also requiring the 26 states and territories with their own OSHA-approved state plans for revision of standards regulating means of egress, emergency action plans, and fire prevention plans in accordance with the final rule.

Top 10 Violations Reported by OSHA, NSC

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) recently listed the Top 10 Violations. The announcement, made at the 92nd Annual Congress and Expo in New Orleans, LA, reflects data collected through the end of June, 2004, with a final compilation encompassing the entire year due in December. At present, the violations are as follows:

  • 1. Scaffolding-General Requirements (6,587 violations)
  • 2Hazard Communication (5,382 violations)
  • 3Fall Protection-General Requirements (4,091 violations)
  • 4Lockout/Tagout (3,312 violations)
  • 5Respiratory Protection (3,033 violations)
  • 6Electrical-Wiring Methods, Components, and Equipment for General Use (2,465 violations)
  • 7Machine Guarding-General Requirements (2,441 violations)
  • 8Powered Industrial Trucks (2,298 violations)
  • 9Mechanical Power Transmission Apparatus (1,777 violations)
  • 10Electrical-General Requirements (1,770 violations).

It was noted that, while there had been no significant increase in the number of violations, there also had not been a noticeable decrease.

OSHA Fines Result From Employee Lock-in Complaint

A Mobile, AL, Winn Dixie supermarket was fined $74,000 following an OSHA inspection. The inspection was the result of a complaint alleging that employees working the night shift at the store were locked in the building with no means of exit, resulting in delayed medical assistance to one employee.

The agency issued one alleged willful citation to the company, saying the supermarket failed to provide night-shift employees with an emergency exit. According to OSHA, three emergency exit doors were chained, locked, or barred with a steel rod during a two-week period in January. A willful citation is issued due to an employer showing intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, OSHA regulation requirements. The citation carries a proposed penalty of $55,000.

OSHA also issued one alleged repeat citation to Winn Dixie, saying the store failed keep exit routes unobstructed by material or equipment. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Commission. It carries a proposed penalty of $12,500.

Winn Dixie may contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission before September 25, 2004.