Maintaining compliance with all safety regulations established by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is essential to protect workers and to avoid serious penalties from this government agency. A number of Houston companies have already run afoul of OSHA regulations in recent years due to their failure to implement necessary safety equipment and to protect staff members in the working environment. For cases in which injuries are sustained, workers may require the assistance of a qualified Houston industrial accident lawyer to ensure that they receive a fair settlement for the losses sustained due to the negligence of their employers. Citations and Fines for OSHA Safety Violations in Houston A number of Houston companies have already felt the sting of OSHA fines and penalties associated with safety violations in the workplace:
- On July 9, 2015, OSHA announced that DuPont would be added to the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program and monitored regularly for any safety infractions after a serious Houston chemical plant accident. Four workers were killed at DuPont’s La Porte plant in November 2014 as a result of a leak of toxic pesticide in a tower unit at that site. OSHA had already proposed a $99,000 fine for safety violations discovered during the post-accident inspection of the La Porte facility; an additional $273,000 in penalties was also suggested by OSHA during the July 9 announcement.
- Hassell Construction Company, a Houston water and sewer contractor, is currently facing $423,900 in OSHA fines related to an accident in which a construction worker was buried under dirt when an eight-foot-deep trench collapsed on him. The worker survived but sustained serious injuries in the accident. OSHA cited the company for 16 violations of its safety code, six of which were deemed willful on the part of the employer. Haskell Construction has also been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
- In January 2015, a temporary worker fell through a roof in Houston and was seriously injured due to the failure of Cotton Commercial USA Inc. to provide fall-arrest equipment for staff members on the worksite. The worker had requested a safety harness on more than one occasion and had been denied this essential safety measure. Cotton Commercial was cited for violations that included failure to report the accident promptly, failure to provide fall protection equipment and failure to train its employees in the use of that equipment. Gardia Construction, the company that provided the temporary worker, also received a citation for a serious violation and was fined $4,900 by OSHA due to its failure to conduct regular inspections of the work site.
Unfortunately, these incidents are not rare. According to figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 4,585 workers suffered fatal injuries at work during 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available. Those same statistics indicate that more than 500 workers lost their lives to work-related injuries in the state of Texas in 2014. Of those deaths, 193 were investigated by OSHA or the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Citations were issued in more than three-quarters of the cases investigated. In Houston alone, OSHA investigated 51 workplace fatalities in 47 separate incidents for fiscal year 2014. For workers injured in the line of duty or the families of those lost to these accidents, seeking the help of an experienced industrial accident attorney may be the only way to hold companies financially accountable for their failure to protect employees. While OSHA citations, fines and penalties may provide added motivation for businesses to implement comprehensive safety programs and to provide necessary protections in the working environment, these measures are generally only put into place after a Houston petrochemical plant accident, construction mishap or other serious incident occurs. By retaining the services of an attorney who specializes in protecting the rights of those injured on the job, Houston workers and their families can ensure that corporate negligence is brought to light and addressed in the public arena.