Business Tips

OSHA fines

The three priciest OSHA fines in recent months, and how to avoid the same fate

It’s every construction business owner’s worst nightmare: getting cited with a hefty OSHA fine. Each and every year, businesses get slapped with violations ranging from a few hundred dollars to amounts north of one million. With the industry being more competitive than ever, any damage to your bottom line could be disastrous, so avoiding potential run-ins with Uncle Sam is a worthwhile effort.

Here were the three heaviest OSHA fines for Q2 of 2019 (April through June):

1. Purvis Home Improvement in Saco, Maine

  • Total fines: $1,792,726
  • Reason: Employee casualty

While conducting a project in Portland, Maine, a Purvis employee tragically fell twenty feet to his death. The victim was reportedly not wearing any protective fall equipment. The owner of the company is currently on trial for workplace manslaughter, a crime that could result in 30 years behind bars if the accused is deemed guilty.

2. Nelson, Inc. in Kalispell, Montana

  • Total fines: $261,418
  • Reason: Three workers were burned using an asphalt mixer and one fell 15 feet, resulting in hospitalization.

After OSHA conducted an investigation, they discovered Nelson employees had failed to wear protective equipment, adequately control hazardous material and properly guard heavy machinery.

3. Northridge Construction Corp. in East Patchogue, New York

  • Total fines: $224,620
  • Reason: Employee fell to their death installing roof panels.

Upon inspection, OSHA deemed that Northridge Construction didn’t provide workers with protective head gear, didn’t closely monitor if employees were using ladders and failed to determine whether job site surfaces could withstand employees’ weight.

Many factors are at play in these and most work site accidents. Some are clearly the fault of the employer while others may be more situational. Nonetheless, there are actionable steps you can take to help safeguard your company against getting similar citations. Here’s where to start.

Provide all necessary safety equipment, and enforce its usage.

As seen by these examples and countless past citations, if your employees aren’t given proper safety equipment—day in and day out—your company’s financial livelihood could be at stake. It’s not enough to just hand over the equipment, though. You and your project managers also need to provide safety training and closely monitor that employees in the field are wearing the protective gear. If they aren’t, even for just an instant, you’ll be the one at fault if an accident occurs.

Without detailed, step-by-step job and safety training your company will put itself at risk of being at fault for workplace injuries.

Make sure your job training is extensive.

With OSHA, your best bet is to leave nothing to chance. Without detailed, step-by-step job and safety training your company will put itself at risk of being at fault for workplace injuries—which could result in legal fines from OSHA and other entities. Thankfully, there are platforms like J.J. Keller & Associates that provide online OSHA safety training courses you can select and purchase based on your specific needs—from aerial lift instruction to HazMat training.

Using validated, trusted sources like these to provide your company with training might cost you upfront, but it’s well worth avoiding a citation (and saving a worker’s life).

Invest in Toolbox Talks.

A toolbox talk is an informal meeting focused on topics related to safety, such as job site hazards and safe work practices, and tailored to the specific job a crew is working on. During these meetings, both workers and supervisors get to share tips, status updates, and insights to help crews safely navigate the project they’re working on.

Not only do toolbox talks create a sense of camaraderie among crew members and a culture of safety at your organization, they can also help you avoid an OSHA fine. If something ever did go awry on one of your job sites, toolbox talks can help prove to investigators that safety is at the forefront of your company’s priorities, helping you reduce the chance of large fines.

Not only do toolbox talks create a sense of camaraderie among crew members and a culture of safety at your organization, they can also help you avoid an OSHA fine.

Stay 100% compliant.

Compliance is at the core of all OSHA fines. If your company is cutting corners in any way at all, this activity is likely to rise to the surface if a workplace injury or other tragedy ever happened. One easy way to stay compliant is by investing in our ExakTime mobile app. With our Mobile Forms feature, employees answer a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question about whether or not breaks or injuries happened on the job today as they log out of our app. You can even require a signature so you can have proof no workplace injuries took place on-site.

Look through OSHA’s safety handbook.

For even more information and specifics around what OSHA is looking for when they drop in for an inspection, you can read their official handbook here. By following their exact guidelines, you’ll be in a position to keep your business bulletproof against potential citations.

Get legal help.

Lastly, be sure to consult with a lawyer about your current situation to ensure your company is fully covered. At the end of the day, experts know best and there’s only so much you can do on your own. If you’re seriously worried about whether or not your company will fully live up to OSHA’s standards, then be sure to seek legal advice.