Last month the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 83 citations to Goodman Manufacturing Company for deliberately failing to document and improperly documenting workplace injuries and illnesses at their Houston air-conditioning plant. Fines and penalties have been assessed at $1.2 million.
In a conference announcing the proposed penalties, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stated that “Accurate workplace injury and illness records are vital tools for identifying hazards and protecting workers’ health and safety. Workers and employers need this information to recognize patterns of injuries and illnesses, and prevent future hazards.”
OSHA’s investigation of Goodman Manufacturing began in March 2010 after the agency received a series of complaints that Goodman had violated OSHA’s regulations by systematically failing to properly document workplace injuries and occupational illnesses. The investigation determined that from January 2008 to March 2010, the company had inaccurately recorded—or simply declined to document altogether—nearly 75 percent of employee injuries and illnesses on its premises.
Workers and regulators have commented that Goodman is highly knowledgeable of OSHA’s recordkeeping procedures, but nevertheless persisted in the decisions and actions resulting in the alleged violations. Critical information pertaining to the degree and duration of its workers’ injuries and illnesses have been inaccurately documented, including the duration of their time off the job. Such figures are vital to properly handling and treating injured workers in a workers’ compensation claim.
As OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels explains, “OSHA takes these violations extremely seriously. We need accurate data to effectively target inspections and resources, and to measure the impact of OSHA’s actions on workplace safety. Employers and workers need to understand how important accurate data are to workplace safety and health.”
According to OSHA regulations, the definition of a willful violation is one that is committed with gross indifference to or intentional neglect for a worker’s safety and health. Goodman Manufacturing was given 15 business days after the citations were issued to comply with OSHA’s protocol and request a consultation with the agency’s Houston director. Goodman can also contest the citations with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA recently implemented a National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping to evaluate the accuracy of employer documentation of worker injury and illness.
All workers are urged to immediately report accidents, fatalities or dangerous workplace conditions to OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742. Injured workers should also consult a Washington Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at Emery Reddy.