Ex-employee points OSHA right to violation

by on May 5, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

You know one way that companies with good supervisors get immersed in an OSHA inspection: a fired employee seeks revenge. As the following case shows, vengeance-seeking employees may know exactly where to point OSHA.

An ex-employee at Automated Handling & Metalfab, Inc. (AHM), a steel fabrication shop in Perrysburg, OH, called OSHA to complain about unguarded angle grinders.

When OSHA arrived at AHM, the supervisor on duty explained that his company had an excellent track record, including no lost-time accidents for nearly 15 years. He said the key was allowing workers to have discretion in their jobs – getting them to think.

The OSHA inspector, though, knew exactly where to look: angle grinders. The supervisor explained he delivered the grinders with machine guards installed, but left the decision to keep the guards on up to the individual worker’s discretion.

No dice, the OSHA Review Commission said. OSHA rules don’t allow workers the discretion to disable machine guards, even if a company had a sound safety philosophy and a good safety record, as this supervisor did.

Key: If a former employee calls OSHA, he or she will know exactly where to point an OSHA inspector. But that doesn’t mean that you’re at the mercy of any employee you fire who knows of a small OSHA violation.

That’s because OSHA usually doesn’t show up right after a complaint – first they send a note and ask you to fix the problem. Only if OSHA doesn’t get an adequate response do they schedule an inspection. So fix any such problems quickly.

Cite: Sec’y of Labor v. Automated Handling, No. 07-1763, OSHRC.

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