Monday, October 28, 2013

OSHA Moves Against Palumbo, Telegraphs Fourth Quarter Enforcement Agenda

Emphasizing the chilling effect of employer lawsuits against whistleblowing employees, OSHA last Thursday ordered Palumbo Trucking, Inc. to pay a penalty of $60,000.00 to a driver and a mechanic who reported a potentially unsafe truck to the North Branford, Connecticut police and the Connecticut DMV. Each former Palumbo employee is to receive $10,000.00 in compensatory damages and $20,000.00 in punitive damages for Palumbo’s violation of the whistleblower retaliation provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Palumbo was also ordered to pay each worker’s attorney fees in the action, to provide neutral job references for both the driver and the mechanic, and to give all its workers a fact sheet on worker rights under the Act.
Meanwhile, various OSHA documents recently released have telegraphed to employers the enforcement agenda of the agency for the remainder of calendar 2013. Employers will find OSHA inspectors checking their facilities to make certain appropriate unlocked, unobstructed and clearly marked exit doors and exit routes for employees are provided, in compliance with 20 C.F.R. 1910.36. Make sure all your employees know how to get out alive in the event of an emergency.
OSHA’s new Hazard Communication Standard requires employers to train all employees on new chemical labeling and Safety Data Sheet formats by December 1, 2013. Make sure your employees know how to read labels of hazardous chemicals in use at your facilities and on your rigs, and that they know where to find and how to read the MSDS information on all those substances.
OSHA’s focus on worker injury avoidance concentrates strongly on fall protection – particularly applicable to construction industry employers – and the agency is in the midst of its Amputation National Emphasis Program respecting machine guarding, lockout and tag out regulations.

OSHA’s final fall initiative is expected to look at grain elevator inspections now that the harvest season sees increased bin entering, preventive maintenance, and rail car and ship grain loading activities.
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