OSHA, Automatic Nail Guns, Increasing Enforcement, and $113,073 Penalty—Do You Know Your Obligations?

Whether installing or fixing a hardwood floor, a subfloor or molding, whether making minor repairs, or attaching shoe molding, a nail gun is likely to be used. Do you require your installers to wear eye protection every time a nail gun is used? As a company in Alabama found out, it can be costly to ignore such protection. Specifically, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a serious citation against a framing contractor for allowing employees to use automatic nail guns without proper eye protection and fined the company $113,073. Similarly, a concrete company was penalized $59,864 for allowing its employees to use a pneumatic air gun without wearing proper eye protection.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA established and enforce standards designed to protect workers. The OSHA standards cover everything from governing the use of power tools, to requiring adequate aisle space in warehouses, to setting standards for protection from silica and asbestos, to mandatory record keeping. As OSHA ruled in the Alabama case, “Employers must ensure that all required protections are implemented to ensure worker safety.” Flooring retailers, contractors and installers ignore these standards at their own risk.

It would be a mistake to assume that OSHA enforcement will be relaxed under President Trump. To the contrary, employers should expect an increase in enforcement of OSHA safety regulations. President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget requests an increase of $6.1 million for 42 new Compliance Safety and Health Officers to continue the agency’s strong commitment to enforcement. The budget seeks another $5.1 million for to expand OSHA training, outreach, compliance assistance, and cooperative. Employee safety is a stated priority in this administration.

OSHA regulations are thorough and often complex. Flooring retailers, contractors and installers ignore these standards at their own risk. Given the potential liability, it is recommended that competent legal counsel be consulted to ensure your company is in compliance with OSHA safety and reporting rules.

For a more information OSHA requirements and how to protect your company, please see the article entitled Government Inspectors Are at The Door:  Now What Do You Do? in WFCA’s Premier Flooring Retailer (November/December 2014), which provided suggested steps to take to ensure your company is prepared for the inspection or search; Ready of the New Crystalline Silica Dust Regulation? It Applies to Many Flooring Products (September 2017) for an explanation of your obligations under OSHA’s crystalline silica rule; and Asbestos and Lead Paint is Still Around: Ignore at Your Own Risk (September/October 2015) for an update on these requirements.

Notice: The information contained in this article is abridged from legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.

Sunday, March 18, 2018