OSHA Steps Up Inspections

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 12:00 am  

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has intensified its scrutiny — and penalties — against Arkansas companies.

In 2010, the agency conducted 504 inspections of companies in the state, an increase of 42 percent compared with 2009, according to Juan Rodriguez, a spokesman for OSHA. And the penalties assessed jumped 18.4 percent in 2010 to $958,000, he said.

“The increase in penalties and number of inspections from 2009 to 2010 was based on increased emphasis in areas such as construction, amputations and oil & gas, which are areas which are causing serious harm to employees,” Rodriguez said in an email to Arkansas Business last week.

The dollar amount for OSHA penalties has increased over the years too, said Gary Ingle, the president and CEO of Environmental Services Group Inc. of Little Rock, which works with companies to help them meet OSHA standards.

In the past, typical fines would range from $1,200 to $2,500, but now they range from $4,500 to $5,000, he said.

The increased OSHA oversight seems to be working to reduce the number of nonfatal injuries, though not the fatal ones. The Arkansas Department of Labor reported that the number of injuries that required days away from work fell 14.2 percent to 6,340 in 2010 compared with 2009. And between 2000 and 2010, the number of injuries at work has fallen 56.9 percent, according to state Labor Department statistics.

While nonfatal accidents dropped in 2010, fatal accidents increased from 75 in 2009 to 87 in 2010, according to the state Labor Department. Most of the fatal accidents were caused by vehicles, followed by employees coming in contact with objects or equipment.

One of the 87 deaths in 2010 was that of Frederick Bogar, who was working at the Welspun Tubular LLC plant in Little Rock. He was killed when 19,000 pounds of pipes crushed him on Dec. 21.

OHSA issued a proposed penalty of $82,100 against Welspun that included $70,000 for a willful violation. Welspun has appealed OSHA’s findings. David Delie, president of Welspun Tubular LLC, declined to comment on the death because of the open OSHA case and a pending lawsuit brought by Bogar’s estate. (See Welspun Facing Lawsuit, OSHA Fines Over Death.)

 

More Penalties

In 2010, OSHA inspected the Pocahontas Aluminum Co. and found 19 alleged serious and five repeat safety and health violations.

 

 

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