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Am I glad I live away from OSHA

Discussion in 'Safety Issues' started by stock, Aug 30, 2009.

  1. stock

    stock Senior Member

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    It would appear that these people have lost the run of themselves .I urge you to read this and see what I mean and the implications it has for our business


    Not only is this a bizarre OSHA fine, it could set a dangerous precedent. The agency has fined a company for an employee’s fatal injury that happened while he was away from his home office on assignment.

    Buffalo News sportswriter Tom Borrelli fell while climbing a steep set of stairs on Nov. 8, 2008, at Buffalo’s All High Stadium where he was covering a football game.

    Borrelli was trying to enter the stadium’s press box. To get there, reporters have to climb 13 steep metal stairs, prop open a hatch and walk across an unprotected walkway on the stadium roof.

    Borrelli apparently hit his head at the top of the stairs and fell down them.

    The reporter was paralyzed from the neck down after the fall and died of his injuries 12 days later.

    Now OSHA has issued a fine — not against Buffalo public schools, but against the newspaper for sending Borrelli to cover the game. Total fine: $31,500.

    OSHA found that:

    fixed stairways were less than 22 inches wide
    fixed stairs were installed at an angle to the horizontal greater than 50 degrees
    stair railings and handrails were not installed according to regulation; instead there was a single pipe-rail 26 inches above the stair tread
    fixed stairs did not have at least 7 feet of vertical clearance between the stair treads and the overhead obstructions, and
    a side-hinged door was not used at the top of the stairs; instead, there was a hatchway.
    Obviously, the newspaper had no control over any of that. So what’s the reasoning behind fining the newspaper?

    “Reporters were exposed to the hazards of falls and head injuries whenever they used the press box,” said Arthur Dube, regional director of OSHA’s Buffalo office.

    “The newspaper was aware of these conditions. [It] should have prevented the reporters from using the stairs and the press box until they were corrected,” Dube said.

    Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan called OSHA’s fine “illogical.”

    She notes that reporters are sent into all sorts of situations, including covering wars, that newspapers can’t control.

    A lawyer for Borrelli’s family says a lawsuit against the school district is pending. The family says it has no intention of suing the newspaper because Borrelli was just performing the job he loved on the day of his fatal injury.

    The school district has been cited with serious violations by the state and is under order to repair the stairs by July.

    Reporters aren’t the only workers who are sent to conduct their jobs off-site. All sorts of contractors and repair people do this every day, as do salespeople.

    Imagine being fined by OSHA because your employee suffered a work injury that didn’t happen on your property.

    What do you think of this case?
     
  2. EGS

    EGS Senior Member

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    Sounds about right to me. OSHA is just about like all other US government agents messed up to say the least.
     
  3. willie59

    willie59 Super Moderator

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    Makes perfect sense...only Government could twist simple logic into something that resembles a Pretzel.
     
  4. digger242j

    digger242j Administrator

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    Just to play the devil's advocate here for a second...

    It does have logic to it though. If an employer is responsible for the safety of their employees, does that responsibility end at the employer's doorstep? In construction, we all do work on property owned by others, but clearly, have responsibility to maintain safe working conditions on said worksite.

    The only way the newspaper might have been able to insure that their employee remained safe would have been to not send him to that unsafe place. But, that is in fact a way to have insured that employee's safety. (And in the case of wars, hopefully they'll all be taking place outside of our boundaries, where OSHA doesn't apply.)

    (Done playing devil's advocate.)

    I agree that this is really reaching on OSHA's part. It opens quite a can of worms in terms of any employer's liability when they send an employee, any employee, out into the big, unsafe world, that's beyond their control. Taken literally, and across the board, it could very well paralyze the day to day functioning of much of our business.

    Should businesses be expected to factor the possibility of an OSHA fine into their price for doing work on premisis that are not under their control, or just decline to do the work altogether?
     
  5. willie59

    willie59 Super Moderator

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    I'm glad you quit playing devil's advocate...I was fixin' to call ya devil242j. :lmao

    I didn't say it "didn't" have logic to it, just twisted logic. I agree completely with you of the can...no, 55 gal drum of worms that this opens. How about the Weather Channel? Better not send any more of them reporters out there to cover a Hurricane! I mean...with all the wind and flying debris. That would be sending them into a "known" unsafe environment. I feel that when government begins to dictate practically everything we do, I have to look at government and say; "I'm sorry...your not my mommy and your not my daddy!". Yes, OSHA is charged with enforcing unsafe work environments, but this case just takes it a slight too far IMHO.
     
  6. digger242j

    digger242j Administrator

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    I've been called worse... :cool2

    And, yeah, there are literally hundreds of examples one could think of. What if you were to go into the field to service somebody's equipment, and your employer knew that there was some unsafe condition there? Are they supposed to say, "Sorry, we can't send anyone out until you're OSHA compliant." :beatsme
     
  7. willie59

    willie59 Super Moderator

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    Yes sir, that's my point. Good grief...every "jobsite" could be deemed (defined) as a hazardous site with unsafe working conditions. In a nutshell, it is the intended purpose of OSHA to state guidelines for employers/employees to insure safe conditions, and to impose fines on those who are guilty of infractions of the guidelines. But to reach all the way back to the Newspaper...C'mon.
     
  8. Grader4me

    Grader4me Senior Member

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    Wow, this is a strange one alright. It would be very difficult for the company to access each situation that they are sending their people into. It will however (being fined) make them more aware that even they have to practice "due diligence" when sending reporters into situations.
    Do I agree with OHS fining the newspaper? No, not really as it does seem a bit bizarre. I would agree that this or any company take all reasonable percautions to ensure employee safety though.
    I don't think wars and acts of god would be a OHSA issue, but as decribed in this senario, it would be.
    An employee is also responsible for their own health & safety and they have a right to refuse dangerous work. Seems someone always has to get hurt or killed before a dangerous situation is rectified..
    Having said all of that..if a reporter started refusing dangerous work..would he/she have a job?
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2009
  9. dirt digger

    dirt digger Senior Member

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    it has logic but when it is brought up in court of the newspaper vs OSHA i doubt it will hold through the appeals process


    its kind of like when police arrest a criminal...they charge them with everything they can upfront and let the court system figure out what will hold and what can't
     
  10. digger242j

    digger242j Administrator

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    A very good point, and one of those worms coming out of the proverbial can.

    (And if you think about it, that reporter had probably climbed that set of non-compliant stairs dozens of times, and wasn't even thinking about the hazard on the occasion of the accident. But that's another branch this discussion can take...)

    Soo, who among us can say, for example, "I don't like the looks of that trench. I'm not going in there without proper shoring", and not feel just the least little bit of discomfort for rocking the boat? (Not saying somebody can't say that and have their objections heard. Just saying that the reality is that in many situations, the pressure to be productive does indeed come before absolute safety.)
     
  11. gbdigger

    gbdigger Well-Known Member

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    You think the court won't find in favor of big brother :umno
    As for OSHA they really do nothing for real worker safety :IMO, I remember reading several years ago that work place accidents involving serious injury and death are actually higher since OSHA was implemented in the 70's than before it was implemented based on worker hours.
    The real purpose of OSHA is it's just another avenue for the Feds to collect taxes :IMO
     
  12. Grader4me

    Grader4me Senior Member

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    Thats the problem in alot of cases. Time and time again, even in my little world here, I'm hearing of employees placed into dangerous situations, and in most cases they don't rock the boat as you say. By law they do have a right to refuse and they have to follow the guidelines set out in the OHSA pretaining to this. But...in most cases they don't and they continue to work regardless.

    I totally disagree with your statement. If employers/companies etc. had no laws that they were required to follow, no written guidelines/rules etc. I don't think there would be as much worker safety...I'm not saying everyone follows these regulations, but they are there.
    Think of it this way..your 16 year old son was starting a new summer job working in a saw mill. Wouldn't you expect or hope that he would be provided with the proper training to do the job safely? This is another basic right of a worker as outlined in the regulations (the right to know).
    Point is without these regulations and without visits from OHS to ensure these laws are being applied, then in my opinion there would be more workplace accidents.
     
  13. stumpjumper83

    stumpjumper83 Senior Member

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    The reason that osha and msha are here is because employers and employees were not policing safety themselves.

    With that being said I think that they have grown a little big for their pants.

    In some cases today a business cannot be profitable and be osha compliant. When you can buy new machinery and have to modify them to meet compliancy, you have an issue.

    As for precident causing complications, does that mean if i slip and fall in the mud on a construction site that its my employers fault because he knew that it was muddy?

    Hopefuly the court throws it out, because we need to set the line somewhere.
     
  14. JDOFMEMI

    JDOFMEMI Senior Member

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    I absolutely agree. Without OSHA and in my work, MSHA, there would be many employers who would cast safety aside for production, and the danger level would go up, along with the accidents.

    I have seen the numbers. For example, until 15 years or so ago, all aggregate producers were regulated only by OSHA. Typically they only show up after an accident or a report of unsafe acts. Sometimes not even then. There were many injuries and fatalities in the quarries. There was no training requirements enforced, and all except a handfull of the largest companies had major safety problems.

    Since MSHA took over the quarries and sand and gravel producers, the level of safety has gone up, and the accident and fatality rate has gone way down. I am not going to quote numbers as I have not read it recently, but it is substantial.
    Many companies in this industry continued to push the limits of safety, and if a worker complained, they would just get someone else to do the work who would not complain.

    Part of this increase in safety is because of the 2 times yearly inspection of each plant.
    When MSHA first started in the aggregate industry, the violations were for major life threatening issues, like unguarded machinery, unsafe electrical, and things that were an immedeiate threat. Now that they have the major things under control, at least mostly, they nit pic on minor things, and errors in documentation.

    It is pretty clear to me that regulation has saved many lives in the business.
    That said, I agree that they take matters a bit too far in many cases now.
    There are still many industries that operate on that policy
     
  15. gbdigger

    gbdigger Well-Known Member

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    I'm not suggesting that we don't need regulations to protect workers far from it, I believe in safety first I ran my own Heavy Construction company for 8 years and my policy was I would never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn't myself. As for MSHA I agree with JD that they actually have helped the mining industry in safety, but OSHA is a different story all together. Back in the early 80's I attended a seminar geared towards the construction insurance industry they invited a guest speaker from OSHA, the speaker from OSHA basically told us that they spend 90% of their time inspecting Grain Elevators and the chance of them inspecting a Heavy Construction jobsite was slim to none unless there was a fatality on the project or a very serious injury. If I were a smart man I would have written down the various articles I have read stating satistics of work place safety prior and post OSHA, but I can only remember vague highlights. If someone here has facts that discount my statements then I stand corrected.
    As for this notion that the majority of contractors disregard worker safety I would strongly disagree, I would place the willing violators at 10 to 15% of the industry. That being said there are instances in which sorry field superintendents do not follow company policies, which in turn implicates the contractor as being unsafe. If you've ever ran a business you know it's very hard to be aware of everything going on without someone coming forth. Many workers are also to blame for fear of alerting management, if the job is unsafe and you say nothing you are only allowing the problem to continue. If you do report it and are laid off then you were working for one of 10 to 15% trouble makers and should be glad to be away from there, your health and life are worth much more than a paycheck. As an employee I have been in both situations once I was released and once the safety problem was corrected by management. I stand by my quote that OSHA is first a revenue generating avenue for the Government and then a worker safety program second.
    :my2c that was a long 2 cents huh
     
  16. JDOFMEMI

    JDOFMEMI Senior Member

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    Yea, maybe even a nickles worth.:drinkup

    I do agree though the majority at least make a good effort at being safe. The ones that aren't cause most of the accidnets, as well as most of the bad press.
    As far as the agencies being more about revenue than actual safety, especially with the new administration.
    We used to get inspected, and if a problem was found, and you could correct it before the inspector left, it could be noted, but no citation. Now the policy from the top is no tolerance. A written violation with a fine for every problem, no matter how minor.
    That is proof to me that it is about revenue, not safety.:bash
     
  17. Grader4me

    Grader4me Senior Member

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    Great post gddigger, now I understand your point:drinkup. Really I know nothing of the regulations in the U.S. and how they are enforced, so I should not be so quick to jump. I would assume though that they would be similar to Canadian regulations.
    This topic of getting laid off because you report a safety hazzard to your Supervisor riles me a bit. As you said, it happens and I agree with you that its better to get the heck out of there as your safety and well being comes first.
    Reporting safety hazzards is an "employees responsibility" and if an employer fires you because of that, then you would have a good case in court. Its sad that people have to work for companies that have a total disregard for safety. Now before anyone jumps my bones here, in my area these companies are very few and I'm sure its the same elsewhere or at least I would hope it is.

    Great topic and posts guys! Nice to be able to discuss, agree, disagree and be totally civil about it.
     
  18. stumpjumper83

    stumpjumper83 Senior Member

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    So lets say your the wistle blower at the site. And you get laid off, or everyone else get a dollar raise and you get nothing... etc.

    What can the courts do to make that right? Force the employer to give you unemployment? Force him to hire you back?

    Now what does that do to your resume? You don't want to get yourself branded as a trouble maker? Foremen know foremen, owners know owners.... etc

    That kinda makes it difficult for a guy to do whats right, especially if unemployment is at a 26 year high, makes finding another job a little difficult.
     
  19. Grader4me

    Grader4me Senior Member

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    Very good points stumpjumper83. Its not so much about being a whistle blower, its about your right to be able to work in a safe environment. If your supervisor places you in a situation that there is a good chance you can get hurt or killed, then you have to make a decision whether to do it or not. If you see a hazzard then again it will be your decision on whether to report it or not. If you do report it you could be saving yourself or someone else from getting injured.

    I'm not so sure that reporting hazzards and exercising your rights to be able to work safely would have a negative impact on your resume. You know there are companies that want employees that believe in working safe.

    Foremen to Foremen, owners to owners? Yep..don't hire that guy because he wants to work safe....

    There are also companies out there that have Supervisors in which you can talk to. Supervisors that are willing to listen to your safety concerns and take action to rectify hazzards. These are the people that you have to talk to first, before you take it any further.
     
  20. stock

    stock Senior Member

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    This thread has gone off in a different direction than I thought it would but to be honest any thing that raises our concerns about safety is a good thing.I don't think OSHA was right with the fining of the paper but ultimately the person that looks back at you in the mirror is the only one completely responsible for you're safety.If you think it's dangerous it probably is.Personally I would and have left a job due to unsafe work practices an sub standard equipment.
    We all network and this site is the proof of that ,someless reputable contractors have been discussed here jobs are looked for etc etc.I know that I will or used to hire someone who was recommended and if some started through the office I could check with people from their previous company,but alas a lot of that is stopped here due to the agency hire.Most if not all companies here have a facility to allow a safety issue to be reported and once it is it has to be addressed,I for one don't want a state holiday for negligence and a criminal record to follow me everywhere I go,you boys stateside may or may not know that the rest of us cannot gain access to the USA if you have a criminal record.As a result of the "current financial issues " I would expect to have to travel for work in the future so this type of baggage I definitely don't need.
    Outside of that the whole personal baggage resulting from a fatal accident,I can't sat how difficult that would be to carry,but I lost a childhood friend in a farming accident and to this day I can recall being told of his death,and the funeral.I was less than 10years old at the time and thus far I have attended many a wake but that one still stands vivid in my mind.I do know the operator involved and that man is still alive and has had a lot of difficulties in his life and has failed to hold a job for any decent lenght of time,so not only has the deceased family suffered but so has the operators.
    If a site management team fail in their responsibilities realistically they are playing with a loaded gun and sadness will follow,the systems are in place legally and how many of you could afford the fine or jail time for unsafe work practices.

    I'll get off my soap box now.