OSHA Activity On the Rise

We have mentioned on this blog before that OSHA is getting more active and more activist when it comes to fines. The cotton industry has not been immune to these increased fines. Our sister organization, the Southern Cotton Ginners, has recently mentioned,in their newsletter, that two gins in the Mid-South have been fined at levels we are not used to seeing…even for OSHA.

In their article, they listed six citations at these two gins with proposed penalties. First, a knock-out grommet missing from an electrical box carried a proposed fine of $1200. Then there was a stairway down to a press pit that needed a railing. That missing railing had a proposed fine of $2380. An employee used compressed air to knock the dirt off of their clothes where the pressure on the hose was 70 p.s.i. when it should have been limited to 30 p.s.i. The penalty for this alleged violation was also $2380. An employee was not properly trained to handle a bale that was hung on a conveyor at the press carried a fine of nearly $5000. Belts and pulleys on a mote cleaner not properly guarded meant a $1000 fine. Finally, failure to disconnect the power from a pusher when an employee entered the machine drew a proposed fine of $4000.

These are some of the highest penalties we’ve seen proposed by OSHA on gins. We have been quite fortunate that OSHA hasn’t been too active in the cotton industry in our area in recent years but we certainly can’t expect that it will stay that way. We had one fatality in a warehouse this year but we have not seen those proposed penalties as yet. OSHA has always carried some of the toughest penalties of regulatory entities but these are stepped up even for them.

We know the season is just recently over in our area but it is a really opportune time to look at your guarding. In the years we’ve been working with our members on safety, particularly on machine guarding, it has become apparent that if a guard needs to be designed differently it will frequently be pulled off once and never put back on. So, if you find guards off of machines find out why it was removed and then find why it wasn’t put back on. Take a look at your training. Talk to your ginners and plant managers and see if the power was being disconnected before work on a machine was begun. Look at your recordkeeping and hazard communication programs. These are easy things for OSHA inspectors to find and should be maintained even though they are pretty tedious to do.

Safety is one of the key issues that your association is built on. Working with our members on safety is a priority. We want our industry to be as safe as possible for your employees. Maintaining a safe workplace will ensure you never see the large penalties talked about above and make your facility a better place to work encouraging better productivity and efficiency.

If you have any questions or want to review your guarding or training procedures, contact Barry Nevius with the Association staff.