By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

Consistent with its threats to aggressively pursue employers who allegedly expose employees to hazardous chemicals and respiratory hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Wisconsin iron foundry for twenty-eight health violations, including three repeat citations, under the national and regional emphasis program on primary metal industries.

OSHA also unilaterally placed this employer on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which focuses on “recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.” Under the SVEP OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities or job sites — possibly multiplying the number of other citations that the employer may become subject to!

The citations issued in this case were for allegedly exposing workers to crystalline silica dust and other hazards following an August 2012 inspection. The proposed penalties total $274,500. OSHA claims that the company is “compromising the safety of its workers by allowing previously cited deficiencies to continue….” “Employers who are cited for repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to workers’ well-being.”

The three repeat violations listed by OSHA are for exposing workers to respirable dust containing silica above the recommended exposure level, unguarded conveyor tail pulleys, and for failing to apply energy isolating devices to equipment during service and maintenance.

Employers of all kinds, but especially those with multiple facilities, are urged to treat every OSHA inspection with critical importance. Don’t put the company in a situation where it becomes liable to numerous inspections across the country. Work diligently on the company’s safety and health policies and programs, implementation, and training to stay out of OSHA’s SVEP program!