A $1.3 million fine levied against an Ohio company for exposing employees to various workplace hazards highlights the importance of following safety requirements.

The U.S.Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed penalties totaling $1,326,367 to Dowa THT American Inc., of Bowling Green.

OSHA levied the fines after determining Dowa THT exposed employees to atmospheric, thermal, electrical, and mechanical hazards as they performed maintenance inside heat-treating furnaces.

OSHA cited the company for 25 willful, serious, and other-than-serious violations for hazards related to confined spaces, falls, machine guarding, respiratory protection, chemical exposures, and electrical equipment.

The company also failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment, and train their employees on the hazards in the facility, OSHA said.

"These violations exposed employees to serious and potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses," said Loren Sweatt, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

"Employers have a legal obligation to assess their workplaces for hazards, and establish appropriate safety and health programs to protect their workers."

Massachusetts Case

Although OSHA's enforcement activity has declined in recent years, the Bowling Green case as well as a recent one in Massachusetts show the agency is serious when it comes to enforcing safety rules.

The Massachusetts case involved a construction company that employed an undocumented worker who was injured on the job falling from a ladder.

When the worker reported the injury, sparking an OSHA investigation, the CEO of Tara Construction Inc., Pedro Pirez, contacted law enforcement, leading to the worker's arrest on immigration charges.

The Labor Department sued Tara Construction, alleging it violated whistleblower protection laws while asking the court to order Pirez and Tara to comply with anti-retaliation laws, and pay the injured worker back wages plus interest, compensatory and punitive damages.

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 help ensure these conditions for America's workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

If your company does face an OSHA citation, your best defense in fighting it is to document your efforts to provide a safe workplace.

For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982) | @CBIAphil