A metal heat treatment company in Bowling Green, Ohio, is under fire from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing its employees to various hazards, and now faces over $1 million in fines and inclusion on the agency's list of severe violators.
OSHA has alleged that the company willfully exposed employees to a long list of dangers while they performed maintenance inside heat-treating furnaces, including atmospheric, thermal, electrical and mechanical hazards.
The agency cited the business for 25 willful, serious and other-than-serious violations for hazards related to confined spaces, falls, machine guarding, respiratory protection, chemical exposures and electrical equipment. OSHA also accused the employer of failure to provide their employees with adequate personal protective equipment and training for hazards in the facility.
In response to OSHA's findings, the agency proposed substantial penalties of $1,326,367, and placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties in order to comply with the $1.3 million fine, ask for an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the allegations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
"The violations identified exposed employees to serious, and potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt in a statement. "Employers have a legal obligation to assess their workplaces for hazards, and establish appropriate safety and health programs to protect their workers."
The Severe Violator Enforcement Program was first implemented in 2010, according to OSHA, in order to "more effectively focus enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations of the OSH Act."
Once placed in the program, SVEP businesses are subjected to various sanctions, including enhanced follow-up inspections conducted in the facility where the original violations were discovered, as well as nationwide inspections of any related worksites that are part of the same company.
"Employers have a legal obligation to assess their workplaces for hazards."
As of March 2019, there are over 600 businesses listed on the SVEP case log. That includes companies ranging from large corporations with thousands of employees to small operations with fewer than a dozen workers, according to NES Global.
Violators can get out of the program either through "removal" or by "lining out."
Removal occurs when a company has been in the SVEP for a minimum of three years and OSHA conducts a company-wide inspection that finds all issues have been addressed and all fines and settlements paid. Lining out, which is the less common method, involves a company successfully contesting its qualifying citations or having them reclassified so as to no longer meet SVEP qualifications.