The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company Amy Food with one “willful,” four “serious” and three other-than-serious citations for placing workers in situations with a clear risk of amputation at the company’s Houston facility. Proposed penalties presently run over $77,000.
OSHA’s Houston Area Office held a safety inspection this past September following worker complaints and reports from employment attorneys that numerous employees had nearly suffered amputation incidents while operating machinery. OSHA’s investigation determined that not only did the company fail to have an energy control program in place, but its machines were also left plugged into electrical power sources prior to maintenance and servicing. This poses a serious threat of workplace injury or death.
The willful violation citation was issued for failure to create, document and adopt an energy control program. A willful violation is one that is committed with deliberate, knowing or voluntary disregard for the established legal requirements, or with simple disregard for workplace safety and employee health.
The serious violations include failure to provide required machine guarding on sprockets and chains; failure to cover floor holes and openings; and neglecting to properly mark exit doors. A serious violation arises when there is significant probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard of which the employer is aware.
The other violations that do not fall into the “serious” category involve poor recordkeeping of injuries and illnesses on the OSHA log. An “other-than-serious violation” is one that relates to job safety, but would not itself likely cause death or serious physical harm.
In a statement released by the director of OSHA’s Houston South Area Office, Mark Briggs said that “This company exposed its workers to injuries, including possible amputation hazards, by failing to develop, document and utilize an energy control program during the maintenance and servicing of machinery. Employer disregard for worker safety will not be tolerated.”
The company has two weeks from receipt of the citations to either comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742), the agency’s Houston South office at 281-286-0583 or its Houston North office at 281-591-2438.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workforce by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
The Department of Labor and Industries website also has useful information on workplace safety and L&I Claims. If you are struggling to recover benefits from a workers compensation case, or want to appeal a rejected L&I claim, contact the L&I lawyers at Emery Reddy for help.