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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

What does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration do?

Despite all of the regulations, inspections and reminders out there about workplace safety, some employers still don't get the message until they get a wake-up call.

If their employees are lucky, that wake-up call comes in the form of a fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If they aren't, it could come in the form of something much worse—like an explosion and seriously injured workers.

For now, the employees of an Atlanta-based recycling plant have gotten lucky. Someone tipped off OSHA about conditions inside the plant, which included problems like explosion and fire hazards due to dust accumulation, missing machine guards that put employees at risk of amputations, the failure to provide employees with personal protective clothing and the failure to implement procedures that would prevent dangerous machines from accidentally being started while some poor employee is trying to service or clean them.

The federal safety agency listed 21 separate violations as "serious." A serious violation means that OSHA believes that the hazard presented to employees could cause an accident that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm.

When OSHA identifies serious safety violations, a fine is proposed along with abatement measures the company may be able to take to bring the company within safety guidelines by a specified date. Usually, these types of actions serve as a warning shot to the employer, and it certainly puts the industrial plant on OSHA's radar for future inspections with even greater fines and penalties if subsequent violations are found.

Unfortunately, not every dangerous industrial plant is discovered in time to protect workers from injury. Issues like those cited above are among the top 10 most frequently found violations, and they put workers at risk every day of electrocution, amputations, burn injuries and death.

On the bright side, the repeated inspections, fines and the enforcement of remedial measures by OSHA is making a positive difference. In the years between 1970 and 2014, worker deaths have dropped from 38 per day to only 13 per day.

The goal, naturally, is to see every day go by without a serious injury or death. That won't happen, however, until employers take full responsibility for the safety conditions of their factories. If you become a victim of your employer's negligence and are seriously injured due to lax safety measures in the factory, an attorney can provide advice on your legal options.

Source: OSHA Regional News Brief - Region 4, "Atlanta-based paper, plastic recycler exposes workers to fire, explosion machine guarding hazards; OSHA proposes $133K in penalties," Jan. 05, 2017

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