OSHA cracks down hard on Illinois manufacturer after CO exposure
In a press release last week, OSHA revealed that it cited an Illinois pallet manufacturer for exposing employees to hazardous levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer. The colorless, odorless gas can overcome workers without warning, and poisoning is most likely to occur when using gasoline-powered tools or generators in enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation. In January, after 10 employees required emergency medical attention as a result of the exposure, OSHA inspectors found that CO levels were nearly 10 times higher than the permissible limit. Additionally, OSHA cited the company for several other violations, including operation of defective forklifts, failure to ensure machine guarding, and failure to train workers on forklift safety and hazard communication.
“Employers are required to regularly conduct workplace hazard assessments to determine appropriate measures to protect workers’ safety and health,” said OSHA Aurora Area Office Director Jake Scott. “This employer risked the health of several workers, and disregarded basic safety standards.”
During a follow-up inspection, conducted one month later, OSHA found several more machine safety violations. In all, the manufacturer is on the hook for $216,253.
Workers deserve better
The most unfortunate part of this story is that 10 people needed emergency medical attention before anyone addressed the completely avoidable issue. With a better, actively monitored health and safety program, this would not have happened. The reality is that this sort of thing occurs every day in the United States, for one reason or another. Minor issues escalate over time, and eventually, people get sick and/or hurt.
In many cases, employers and team managers aren’t aware of the actual level of danger until it’s too late. However, they are negligent each time because they don’t have proper, OSHA-required health and safety programs in place. By not being proactive in that approach, these companies are playing a game of chance. Sure, these workers know that they are working with dangerous machinery and materials, but they should be protected adequately.
OSHA is actually here to help employees AND employers
No employer is actively trying to hurt employees. It’s inevitable, though, that Murphy will come to hang out on your job site … machinery goes bad, respirators need adjusted or replaced, and workers do get sick. That’s why preparation is key. For every industry, and for nearly every type of material, OSHA has a set of rules in place to keep workers safe and healthy.
The administration is not out to get you. In fact, it’s there to help … no, really, it’s true. If your employees get hurt or sick, and you didn’t do enough to prevent it, then you could be dragged into a decades-long lawsuit that results in multi-million-dollar payouts, bad press, and lives permanently damaged and/or lost. OSHA, on the other hand, typically gives you a chance to make things right in a set amount of time. And, it offers programs that provide workers with basic and more advanced training about common safety and health hazards on the job. That sounds more like an administration looking out for everyone’s best interests, not one that’s out simply to shut down companies and levy fines. If the latter was the case, then U.S. companies would be few and far between.
It’s okay to ask for help
Sometimes – alright, most times – understanding complex OSHA rules and standards seems to require a Ph.D in biochemistry. This rings especially true when it comes to creating a health and safety program with medical surveillance testing. In the case of the Illinois manufacturer, at least as it pertains to CO exposure, a medical surveillance team would have seen a pattern of abnormality in the workers’ medical testing results. That, in turn, would have put the employer in a stronger position to not only keep its employees healthy, but also to find any faulty equipment that caused the excessive CO levels. OSHA requires medical surveillance testing for that reason… to prevent unfortunate outcomes. Sure, it costs money, and it takes some time & effort. However, once you have a good plan in place, then it becomes a standard process in your company’s operation. And, it’s undoubtedly preferred to OSHA fines and shutdowns.
As a medical surveillance testing company, we strive to make the entire experience both affordable and convenient. We provide a less disruptive approach to medical surveillance testing, because we understand your need to efficiency and structure. If you’re local to Ellwood City, Pa. or Belcamp, Md., then you can send your team to our standalone clinics, where they will never have to sit in a waiting room occupied by the general public. We specialize in occupational health, so our goal is to get them back to work in a timely manner. If you aren’t in one of those areas, then you can have us come to you. With our large fleet of mobile medical units, we are able to send our clinic operation, along with our highly trained, experienced medical staff to your job site. That way, you never have to send anyone off site for testing, and your workers can get right back to work. In both cases, we will be able to guide you through OSHA standards to make sure you get exactly what you need. Each year, we do the same for approximately 700 businesses across the U.S.
Bringing it all together
So many things went wrong for the Illinois manufacturer, but your story can and will be different. Once your health and safety plan is in place, you and your team will be in a position to thrive. People get hurt and sick, but if you’re doing what to can to prevent that, then you’re giving them the best chance to overcome those obstacles while also protecting your company.
Contact us today. We’d love to help you get started on, or improve upon, your health and safety program.
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