OSHA has the ability to fine and sanction employers that do not take care of the safety of their employees and workplace. One of the more common violations includes not warning or training on the dangers associated with chemicals used, kept or made at a location. Too often workers are injured through exposure to toxic chemicals. Sometimes, those employers pay a fine for violations of the hazard communications regulations.
Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill Law Firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real, and these are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis.
A lot of workers in Texas and in San Antonio work in industries in which they’re exposed to dangerous chemicals or other types of hazards. Currently, we’re working on a few cases, one in which a young man was exposed to hydrogen sulfide, and he was a transport driver. Somehow or another, he came to have a vessel containing this dangerous gas in his vehicle and nobody told him what he was carrying.
In another case, we represent a bunch of workers who were working in a grocery warehouse when a bad ammonia leak happened. Many of them, likely hundreds, were exposed to some amount of ammonia, whether they were working at the time, driving by, on the plant, or just in the general area. It was a very, very large exposure.
We’ve talked recently about OSHA, and how OSHA afterwards will get involved in on the job injuries and exposures to determine whether or not the employer did everything they should, following all the federal rules and regulations. If not, they will do an investigation and oftentimes fine or somehow sanction those employers. They do this to make sure that employers maintain a safe workplace and that employees have all the chance they can to not be injured on the job in a variety of ways.
We’ve talked recently about the most common causes of employers getting sanctioned or written up or fined by OSHA. The most commonly cited violations. We spoke recently about fall protection being the number one cause of OSHA citations. The second most commonly cited cause of OSHA citations and violations are the hazard communication sets of rules and regulations.
Now, these standards address a few things, but they’re typically revolved around chemical hazards in the workplace. That involves chemicals that are being produced on-site in a facility, or chemicals that are brought on the facility off-site but used in whatever processes happen at that location.
Some of the more commonly cited portions of the hazard communication regulations include that employers are required to keep some sort of written program on-site. That written program has to provide certain things such as labeling, warnings, safety, safety data sheets, training to the employees, information availability to the employees. Generally, just the idea that if people are working around dangerous chemicals, they should be trained on what they are, trained on how to respond to an emergency, and understand how to handle them in a safe manner.
Another thing that is commonly cited in the hazard communication guidelines is whether or not employees are continuously trained as new chemicals are brought on site. When a new employee is hired and there’s dangerous chemicals on the location, OSHA requires that those new employees are trained on them, as we previously discussed. OSHA also requires that if new chemicals are brought onto the property that employees get trained on them. Not only trained, but they also need to be labeled, warnings need to be available, and the safety data sheets should also be provided.
Another big part of the hazard communication requires labeling. Not only should people be warned, they should have the safety data sheets available, but also all these chemicals should be properly labeled. The labeling should clearly mark out what the chemical is and what dangers are associated with it. For example, things like flammability, whether it’s caustic, whether it’s dangerous to be breathed, and they should all be specific to whatever chemical it is.
Now, as we discussed, we have a few cases currently regarding workers who were exposed to dangerous chemicals. In those cases, there’s always going to be a discussion about whether or not the employees knew what the chemicals were, knew how to respond to a release of the chemicals, knew what the dangers of the chemicals were. That’s going to be a big issue in any case involving industrial exposure, including the cases we’re currently handling.
We’re going to continue to walk down OSHA’s most commonly cited violations so you’ll have some sort of understanding as to what the most common violations are of employers at the worksite, and what we think probably tracks pretty closely to what some of the most common causes of injuries are on the worksite.