If there's one program that no company in Texas or anywhere else in the country wants to be associated with, it is unquestionably the Severe Violator Enforcement Program administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Inclusion in the program is a dubious distinction, with businesses on OSHA's list being deemed by the federal safety regulator as particularly egregious for their demonstrated indifference to employees' health and safety. Once targeted, a company in the program can expect a heightened level of scrutiny from OSHA inspectors, as well as stepped-up requirements in implementing remedial safety measures.
Ohio-based Republic Steel knows all about that, having been slapped hard by OSHA for what the agency states are repeated willful and serious safety violations at its multiple plants. And now, in addition to the escalated focus that the company is already enduring by virtue of its severe-violator status, Republic Steel has just inked an ignominious agreement with OSHA that agency Administrator Dr. David Michaels terms “unprecedented.”
Although the agreement is flatly harsh and will cost Republic Steel dearly, safety advocates will likely heap universal praise on the terms it sets forth, given their strong safety and health focus.
For starters, the steel company will pay $2.4 million in fines. The agreement also mandates that it will “implement numerous safeguards” at its various work locations and address more than 100 safety violations that OSHA officials say are threatening its workers.
Republic Steel must also beef up its safety staff, work closely with union representatives on safety-related matters and hire independent auditors to assess its progress. Failure to materially abide with the agreement’s terms will result in a ramped-up OSHA response.
Republic Steel’s story is both singular and dramatic in the dimensions of the company’s violations and resulting penalties. In truth, companies across the country that are not deemed particularly problematic by OSHA nonetheless face elevated agency scrutiny and intervention at various levels every day.
In such instances, and especially when employers view OSHA actions as unreasonable or punitive, business managers and owners have a legal right to protect themselves.
A proven OSHA violations defense attorney can help them do that by offering timely and knowledgeable legal counsel and interceding with agency officials on their behalf.
Source: EHS Today, "Republic Steel agrees to pay $2.4 million, fix safety hazards as part of 'unprecedented' OSHA settlement," Josh Cable, April 28, 2014