Federal Commission Given New Authority in OSHA Cases
An Administrative Law judge has decided that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission may have authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to order abatement measures sought by OSHA beyond the specific violations OSHA identified in its citations.
OSHA cited Central Transport LLC in November 2014 for 14 violations of workplace safety and health standards at the freight hauler’s Billerica, Massachusetts, shipping terminal. A total of $330,800 in fines was proposed.
Central Transport filed a notice of contest with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in December of that year and litigation commenced.
In its complaint to the commission, the Labor Department alleged that Central Transport failed to comply with the OSHA standards for the safety of powered industrial trucks at locations other than the inspected worksite, and requested an order compelling Central Transport to comply with the powered industrial truck standard at all its locations.
Judge Baumerich's order is significant and precedent-setting.
Administrative Law Judge Carol A. Baumerich denied Central Transport's motion, holding that the Occupational Safety and Health Act's provision authorizing the remedy of "other appropriate relief" provides the basis for allowing the department's claim for enterprise-wide abatement, at all locations where like violations exist, to proceed to trial.
Judge Baumerich also denied Central Transport's request for a discovery and litigation stay of the claim for enterprise-wide abatement, finding that such a stay would jeopardize the litigation of the department's claim for enterprise-wide abatement.
"Judge Baumerich's order is significant and precedent-setting,” says Michael Felsen, the regional solicitor of labor for New England.
“This is the first decision by an OSHA Administrative Law Judge expressly finding that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission may have the authority under the OSH Act to order abatement measures beyond the specific violations identified in the citations.
“The department is now authorized to proceed with discovery and to demonstrate, by presenting its evidence at trial, that enterprise-wide abatement is merited on the facts of this case.”
"When an employer has hazards occurring at multiple locations, common sense and reasonable worker protection law enforcement both dictate that the employer take corrective action to safeguard the health and well-being of employees at all its worksites," says Kim Stille, OSHA's regional administrator for New England.
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