Safety Best Practices

The Biggest OSHA Penalties in Construction

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Salus Safety
6 min read
October 18, 2021

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a preliminary list of the Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Workplace Safety Regulations in 2020. Although several standards switched positions, the top 10 OSHA violations in 2020 included all the typical culprits, remaining essentially unchanged from 2019. Fall Protection (29 CFR 1926.501) bagged the first spot for the tenth year in a row. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) also remained in second place with a whopping 3,199 violations for 2020, while Respiratory Protection (1910.134) climbed from fifth place in FY 2019 to third place.

Whether non-serious or fatal, violations of workplace safety standards naturally incur OSHA penalties. And unsurprisingly, these fees large enough to not be overlooked lightly.

OSHA’s Largest Penalties in History

When inspectors discover numerous OSHA violations on a job site, the penalties for these can add up quickly. Here are three of the largest OSHA penalties ever imposed in history.

#1 – BP Products North America

In March 2005, non-compliance with OSHA regulations at BP’s Texas City, TX refinery led to a catastrophic explosion, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 more. Among the safety issues cited were complications with guards around holes and wall openings, and defective pressure release device systems.

The tragedy cost the oil and gas company $21 million in OSHA penalties, the then-largest fee ever levied by the regulatory agency. That same year, BP reached a settlement deal with OSHA, agreeing to take comprehensive action to address the hazards that contributed to the explosion.

However, the corrective measures taken by the firm did not meet OSHA standards. Rather than upholding its end of the agreement, BP has allowed hundreds of potential risks to go unchecked.

Following their 2009 inspection, OSHA proceeded to fine the company a total of $87.4 million, $56.7 million of which was due to 270 citations for failing to comply with the 2005 settlement. There were an additional $30.7 million for 439 new willful violations, in which the company did not follow industry-accepted controls on pressure relief safety systems and other measures for process safety management. Wow!

In March 2005, non-compliance with OSHA regulations at a BP Products refinery led to a catastrophic explosion, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 more, and costed the company $21 million in OSHA penalties.

#2 – IMC Fertilizer/Angus Chemical

OSHA imposed its second-largest fine in history on IMC Fertilizer/Angus Chemical, totaling over $11 million. On May 1, 1991, an explosion at a Sterlington, LA fertilizer plant resulted in eight deaths and 120 injuries. According to OSHA, an investigation determined that IMC Fertilizer exposed 223 workers to the risk of fire and explosion. In addition to the fees, IMC Fertilizer had to conduct a thorough, employee-involved safety evaluation and document and fix all hazards going forward.

#3 – Imperial Sugar

Imperial Sugar received the third-largest fine in history, with total OSHA penalties of just under $9 million. They incurred this punishment in response to a February 2008 explosion at the company’s Port Wentworth, GA facility, taking the lives of 14 people and severely injuring dozens more. According to the citations, the firm failed to manage combustible dust hazards adequately. This came after inspectors found other safety and health breaches at another facility in Gramercy, LA, compounding the wider concerns.

OSHA’s Largest Penalties in 2020-2021

Despite the challenges in the past year, federal and state OSHA officials did not allow the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent them from inspecting job sites. These are three of the most recent hefty OSHA penalties incurred over the past year.

#1 – Allways Roofing

OSHA slapped Allways Roofing with $1.2 million in penalties following an inspection of four of the roofing company’s job sites in Snohomish, WA.

During a lengthy inspection running from December 2020 to March 2021, authorities identified 12 willful, serious violations, including failure to provide fall protection, improper use of ladders, and using pneumatic nail guns without eye protection.

The fines soared so high because Always is apparently a habitual offender. Eleven of the citations were repeats of previous safety violations on the firm’s work sites, along with nine general violations, including failing to hold safety meetings and document safety inspections.

#2 – RES America Construction and RES System 3 LLC

In January 2020, an unprotected trench collapsed on a wind farm project in Rainier, WA, killing one worker and severely injuring another. RES America Construction and RES System 3 LLC, both affiliated with the British energy firm Renewable Energy Systems, racked up a total of $545,674 for 14 infractions due to the tragedy.

OSHA handed out the penalties because RES America Construction failed to ensure that its subcontractor properly documented safety plans. OSHA cited RES System 3 LLC for a number of violations, including failing to utilize appropriate trench protection, disregarding site risks, and promoting a work policy intended to bypass safety requirements.

#3 – Everest Scaffolding

Construction firm Everest Scaffolding was fined $300,370 after a laborer fell to his death from a seven-story Brooklyn building in November 2020. During the investigation, authorities found two willful and two serious safety violations of OSHA regulations. Citations were issued for breaches of fall protection and scaffolding safety standards, as well as failing to adequately train workers about fall risks connected with scaffolding work.

With such hefty fines, on top of the potential damages to a company’s reputation, it makes sense for every employer to improve their safety program to include OSHA compliance in the workplace.

Using Salus’ Digital Safety Compliance Tools

The first step to avoiding massive fines and ensuring compliance is establishing a standardized documentation procedure. This entails maintaining easily accessible, properly versioned documents in a single location, distributing and monitoring them effectively, and keeping backup copies readily available.

One of the simplest ways to do this is with safety compliance software. A comprehensive safety management system assists in ensuring standards are followed, workers are appropriately trained, and reports are filed on time. Safety software simplifies and automates administrative workflows, allowing you to keep documents centralized effortlessly. This is particularly beneficial because, as seen above, an unsigned certification or overdue report puts your site in OSHA’s crosshairs.

Safety compliance software helps you keep tabs on crucial documentation, audits, and inspections. You can program automatic notifications whenever non-compliance or deficiency happens, to stay ahead of issues. The sooner you are made aware of the problem, the sooner you can rectify it.

If you’re looking to implement OSHA’s best practices without the burden of unwieldy stacks of paper or spreadsheets, Salus is here to help. Salus’s construction safety software is there to care of compliance management tasks, digital form monitoring, and accountability tracking for you. Salus simplifies the process of storing, recording, and analyzing documents in real-time!

Salus’s tech-driven solutions assist in the smooth operation of construction projects, so you can meet OSHA requirements and guarantee safety protocol compliance. With features like subcontractor portals, shared calendars and notifications, and certificate and asset management, compliance management has never been easier.

Discover how Salus can help simplify your job site’s safety compliance today! If you’re ready to achieve a zero-violation facility, reach out to Salus to schedule a demo today.

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