After nearly three months of radio silence, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has posted its first news release about enforcement actions.
On Wednesday, April 12, OSHA announced that is it proposing $1.5 million in penalties against a Boston company after a trench collapse killed two workers in October 2016. According to the release, Atlantic Drain has been cited for 18 willful, repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations of workplace safety standards. The company’s trenching worksites were cited by OSHA for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012.
In addition, a grand jury indicted both Atlantic Drain and the company’s owner on two counts each of manslaughter and other charges in connection to the deaths.
"The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented. Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility," Galen Blanton, OSHA's New England regional administrator, said in the release.
Until Wednesday’s announcement, an enforcement press release hasn’t been issued by OSHA since Jan. 18. But why now?
Last month, a former Obama administration official — Jordan Barab, who served as deputy assistant secretary of labor from 2009-2017 — began publishing information on large enforcement cases on his Confined Space newsletter.
“If OSHA won’t do it, Confined Space will,” he writes.
Barab states that during the Obama administration, the policy was to issue press releases on citations greater than $40,000. OSHA has issued about 200 citations for $40,000 or more since Jan. 20, he states. However, only one enforcement press release has been issued.
Here at IMPO, safety is an important topic, and regular readers may have noticed that we haven’t had many articles lately detailing OSHA violations. OSHA's last press release was issued Jan. 18.
Some say publicizing companies’ violations is a way to leverage the Department of Labor’s resources. (Union researchers say it would take OSHA 145 years to inspect every workplace once, working at its normal pace.) While others say publicizing the citations is just a way to publicly shame companies.
What do you think?