Court upholds OSHA finding that railroad company violated Maine employee’s whistleblower rights

BOSTON – A federal appeals court has affirmed that Pan Am Railways, Inc. must pay $260,000 in punitive and compensatory damages to – and take corrective action on behalf of – an employee who was subjected to retaliation for filing a Federal Railroad Safety Act whistleblower complaint.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the complaint, filed in 2011, against the North Billerica-based commercial railroad and found the railroad retaliated against the employee, who works in a rail yard in Waterville, Maine, when it charged him with dishonesty in connection with his FRSA complaint. The employee had tried to report an injury.

The department ordered the railroad to take corrective actions and pay the affected employee $10,000 in compensatory damages and $40,000 in punitive damages. Pan Am Railways appealed, and in 2014, an administrative law judge upheld the agency’s finding of retaliation and increased the amount of punitive damages to $250,000. The railroad again appealed, to the department’s Administrative Review Board, which affirmed the judge’s order. It then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which denied the railroad’s petition on April 21, 2017.

“This case is a strong reminder that our whistleblower laws prohibit reprisals against employees who file whistleblower complaints, report workplace injuries and illnesses, or raise awareness of hazardous safety or security conditions,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA’s New England regional administrator.

“A safe and healthy workplace is a goal we should all aspire to achieve. Discriminatory actions by employers, including but not limited to retaliation, can freeze employees into silence. Hazardous conditions can go unreported as a result, and lead to avoidable human and financial costs,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor for New England.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Cites Florida Health Facility for Exposing Employees to Workplace Violence

BRADENTON, FL – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc., the operators of Bradenton-based Suncoast Behavioral Health Center, for failing to protect employees from violence in the workplace. Proposed penalties total $71,137.

OSHA responded to a complaint that employees were not adequately protected from violent mental health patients. OSHA cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc., subsidiaries of Universal Health Services Inc., for failing to institute controls to prevent patients from verbal and physical threats of assault, including punches, kicks, and bites; and from using objects as weapons. Another UHS subsidiary was cited in 2016 for a deficient workplace violence program.

“This citation reflects a failure to effectively address numerous incidents over the past two years resulting in serious injuries to employees of the facility,” said Les Grove, OSHA Tampa Area Office Director.

Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc. have 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

All in One Poster Company has developed he 8-in-1 Healthcare Safety Poster, one of the most important safety posters applicable to the healthcare industry.

HomeHealthCareSafety

This poster describes various risks and safety precautions to be observed by an employee for a healthcare organization which includes the following topics:
· Emergency First Aid
· Fall Prevention
· Patient Lifting
· Latex Allergy
· Bloodborne Pathogens
· Safe Vehicle Operation
· Workplace Violence
· Hand Wash Notice

This poster is ideal for: In-Home Care Providers, Skilled Nursing or Convalescent Homes, Home Health Agencies, Assisted Living Facilities, Medical Clinics and Laboratories, Hospitals, Sanitariums, Institutions for Individuals with Mental and Developmental Disabilities, etc.

 

Cal/OSHA Cites Roofing Contractor for Repeat Fall Hazard Violations

San Diego—Cal/OSHA cited California Premier Roofscapes, Inc. for repeat violations
of fall protection safety orders and proposed $134,454 in penalties. The Escondido based
company was investigated and cited on six different occasions over the past four years for putting its workers at risk of fatal falls.

Cal/OSHA opened the most recent inspection in August of 2017 after receiving a report
that workers were not wearing proper fall protection while installing tiles on the roof of a three-story Chula Vista home. Inspectors found that California Premier Roofscapes
failed to ensure their workers were wearing safety harnesses and other personal fall
protection. Employees were not properly trained on fall protection and roof work
hazards.

  • “California Premier Roofscapes has repeatedly put its workers at risk of potentially
    deadly falls from heights, disregarding basic safety requirements to protect its
    employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

Cal/OSHA issued citations to California Premier Roofscapes for four violations
including:

  • One repeat-serious violation for failing to ensure that workers were wearing fall
    protection.
  • One repeat general violation for failing to effectively implement and maintain a
    written Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
  • Two general violations for not inspecting equipment prior to each use and inadequate training on fall hazards and protection.

The first inspection with California Premier Roofscapes was opened in October 2014
after Cal/OSHA received a complaint that employees were working on an Irvine roof
with no fall protection. Cal/OSHA inspected a California Premier Roofscapes’ residential
construction site in Azusa the following day after receiving a complaint involving an
unsafe portable ladder. The following month, Cal/OSHA investigated an accident
involving a worker who suffered serious head and knee injuries after falling 15 feet from
a ladder attached to scaffolding at a Carlsbad residential construction site.

In June 2015, Cal/OSHA opened an inspection and cited California Premier Roofscapes
for a repeat serious violation after workers with no fall protection were reported on the
roof of an Irvine construction site. In March of the following year, Cal/OSHA inspected a
report that California Premier Roofscapes’ workers wore harnesses but were not
properly tied off to prevent falls from the roof of a Tustin construction site. California
Premier Roofscapes was cited for two repeat violations, one serious and one general
category.

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction nationwide. In California’s roofing
industry, falls have caused nine deaths and 162 serious injuries since 2014.

A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm
could result from the actual hazardous condition. A repeat violation is cited when the
employer was previously cited for the same or a very similar violation and the earlier
citation became final within the past 5 years.

All employers in California are required to have an effective written injury and illness
prevention program, a safety program to identify, assess and control hazards in the
workplace. Cal/OSHA has online tools and publications to guide employers on how to
establish an effective safety program. Cal/OSHA’s resources on fall protection include
safety and health factsheets, residential fall protection training and a construction safety
pocket guide.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost
every workplace in California. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch provides free
and voluntary assistance to employers to improve their health and safety programs.
Employers should call (800) 963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation
Services.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in
English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734). The California Workers’
Information line at 866-924-9757 provides recorded information in English and Spanish
on a variety of work-related topics. Complaints can also be filed confidentially with
Cal/OSHA district offices.

Source: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2018/2018-28.pdf

Cal/OSHA Cites Construction Company in Fatal Steel Pipe Accident

American Canyon—Cal/OSHA cited a Bay Area company following an investigation into

Emergency workers respond to the site where a 28-year-old construction worker died after he was crushed by rolling pipe at a road project southwest of the Petaluma Boulevard South exit off Highway 101 in Petaluma on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

Emergency workers respond to the site where a 28-year-old construction worker died after he was crushed by rolling pipe at a road project southwest of the Petaluma Boulevard South exit off Highway 101 in Petaluma on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

a fatal accident at a Petaluma construction site in April. A 28-year-old worker from Novato was killed when a 40-foot concrete-coated steel pipe being unloaded from a forklift rolled down a slope and crushed him.

“This fatality could have been avoided had the required safety measures been in place for working at a hazardous location,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). Cal/OSHA is a division of DIR.

Construction workers continue to unload pipe from a flatbed trailer truck after one of the pipe pieces rolled over and killed a 28-year-old construction worker southwest of the Petaluma Boulevard South exit of Highway 101 in Petaluma, on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

Construction workers continue to unload pipe from a flatbed trailer truck after one of the pipe pieces rolled over and killed a 28-year-old construction worker southwest of the Petaluma Boulevard South exit of Highway 101 in Petaluma, on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

The accident occurred around 7 a.m. on April 15 near Highway 101, where Maggiora & Ghilotti, Inc. of San Rafael was replacing an old water pipe. The employee was working with a forklift operator to unload and transport the new pipe down a sloping dirt road. The pipe weighed approximately 8,000 pounds and was not secured to the forklift; it was unloaded directly to the ground without any chocks or barrier to prevent it from moving. The worker was facing the pipe when it slid off the forks, rolled over him and was finally stopped by a chain link fence.

“Employers must be vigilant in recognizing job hazards and keeping their employees safe by taking the necessary precautions in all aspects of an operation,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

A member of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office takes a photo of the pipe that rolled over and killed a 28-year-old construction worker in Petaluma on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

A member of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office takes a photo of the pipe that rolled over and killed a 28-year-old construction worker in Petaluma on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

Cal/OSHA’s American Canyon office issued three citations to Maggiora & Ghilotti for failing to recognize and plan for the hazard of transporting the steel pipe, for failing to survey and plan for the hazards of uneven ground, and for not securing the pipe during transport. The three citations total $38,250.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch provides free and voluntary assistance to employers and employee organizations to improve their health and safety programs. Employers should call (800) 963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.

Scene of fatal construction worker accident in Sonoma County, April 15, 2015. (KGO-TV)

Scene of fatal construction worker accident in Sonoma County, April 15, 2015. (KGO-TV)

Employees with work-related questions or complaints may call DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734), or the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 866-924-9757 for recorded information in English and Spanish on a variety of work-related topics. Complaints can also be filed confidentially withCal/OSHA district offices.

For media inquiries, contact Erika Monterroza at (510) 286-1164 or Peter Melton at (510) 286-7046.

News Release No.: 2015-65