The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration on November 9 announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission recently ruled in favor of upholding citations issued to Thomas Industrial Coatings Inc. of Pevely, Mo., following an investigation into two separate worker deaths at the same worksite.
In its decision, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed a total of six serious and 12 willful violations, with an assessed penalty of $871,500. Of significance was the judge's affirmation of OSHA's egregious or violation–by–violation penalty policy, where eight willful violations were issued to the company accounting for each employee exposed to the same fall hazard.
"We hope the penalties upheld by the review commission send a message to employers everywhere that they can't disregard vital safety measures at the expense of their workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "We're especially pleased that the judge has affirmed our egregious case penalty policy. We hope employers will be deterred by the potentially higher fines they could face, and will address hazards before OSHA gets there and before workers get hurt."
In 2006, two of the company's employees fell 40 feet from the same scaffold platform, on the same worksite, within two months of each other. Those two deaths followed the death of another Thomas Industrial Coatings employee just three months prior who fell from a scaffold in the St. Louis, Mo., area, and subsequently drowned in the Missouri River.
Following investigations into the deaths of the two employees in 2006, OSHA cited Thomas Industrial Coatings for serious and willful violations, and proposed substantial penalties. The citations specifically addressed the employer's failure to provide workers with fall protection and/or guarding of scaffold platform openings and training in the use of fall protection.
"Companies that willfully and intentionally violate the Occupational Safety and Health Act will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. "Employers must fulfill their responsibility to keep employees safe, or face the consequences when they fail to do so."