By Brent I. Clark, Meagan Newman, and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000059911458_Large.jpgAn Administrative Law Judge has held that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) “may have authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act” to order abatement measures sought by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration beyond the specific violations OSHA identified in its citations. Secretary v. Central Transport, LLC, OSHRC Docket Nos. 14-1452, 14-1612, and 14-1934 (December 7, 2015).

OSHA cited the employer for 14 violations of workplace safety and health standards at the company’s shipping terminal. OSHA proposed $330,800 in fines. The employer filed a notice of contest and the instant litigation commenced.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) December 23, 2015, news release, in its complaint to the OSHRC, the DOL alleged that the company failed to comply with the OSHA standards for the safety of powered industrial trucks at locations other than the inspected worksite, and requested an order compelling the employer to comply with the powered industrial truck standard at all its locations. The employer, in response, filed a motion asking the OSHRC to strike the DOL’s claim for enterprise-wide abatement, arguing that the Occupational Safety and Health Act does not permit it.

Administrative Law Judge Carol A. Baumerich, in her order on the employer’s motion to strike, found that the OSH Act’s provision authorizing the remedy of “other appropriate relief” provided a basis for allowing the DOL’s claim for enterprise-wide abatement, “at all locations where like violations exist, to proceed to trial.”

The issue in this case is considerable. The employer, as noted in the ALJ’s Order, indicated that it operated about 170 shipping and service centers in the United States. Further, the possible implications for other employers with multiple worksites and common operations are truly significant.