Friday, July 24, 2009

Penalties Across the Country

The OSHA Underground asked an interesting question today:
"WE wonder after 39 years, why don't we have standard penalties for routine violations?
An unguarded press would be worth the same in Maine to Florida."
I would like to hear what others think, but obviously I have to put in my two cents.

I have never agreed that all violations are created equal. If I inspect an injection molding shop that has 300 different plastics and they have 298 of the 300 MSDSs, and the two missing MSDSs are for plastics they haven't used in three months, and they get the MSDSs faxed to them before I leave, should I even cite them? I don't think so, I'll note it in the case file and move on.

Take that example to the next step, if they are missing 30 MSDSs of rarely used plastics and have an effective HAZCOM program, should I cite them? I think so. The question becomes at what level? I would propose OTS, no penalty.

Now to the extreme, the employer only has 15 of the necessary 300 MSDSs and has routinely thrown out MSDSs when they are received. That to me is a serious violation.

The obvious question to my example is where do I draw the line? I can't answer that, there are way too many possibilities, but it seems to me that issuing the same citation with the same penalty in all three of those situations is unfair.

To continue the punch press example, the severity and probability assessment might preclude violations in Maine and Florida from being the same. If the site in Florida has a press that six employees share over two work shifts, the press is in continuous operation, and the employees have their hand near the point of operation, that seems to me to be high severity/greater probability. If the site in Maine has one operator, who uses the press once per week, and uses a wood dowel to hold the piece in place as the press actuates, that seems to me to be a high severity/lesser probability.

Now what happens if one of the sites uses a press that has a down stroke force that is incapable amputating a finger? Now the severity isn't high, it's medium or low.

I get what Kane is saying, and we do have consistency issues, and even though those issues aren't as bad as they were 20 years ago, I think they have been getting worse for the last few years.

I think one piece of improving our consistency is through OTI. Not just the courses, but the opportunity for CSHOs from around the country to get together and discuss how we do things. It seems to me our consistency began to fall about the time our training budgets fell. The fact that OTI seems to be going to distance learning has only accelerated the problem (distance learning is a whole new rant).

Consistency is important, but so is flexibility. So how do we achieve both?


  1. Re: "Now to the extreme, the employer only has 15 of the necessary 300 MSDSs and has routinely thrown out MSDSs when they are received. That to me is a serious violation."

    The employer will cite to OSHA blogs in their defense. I don't know who writes blogosha, but it encourages employers to discard old MSDSs!

  2. blogOSHA is run by

    a group of un-named consultants that SELL posters, DVD's etc...

    MSDS's need to be retained for up to 30 years.

  3. Read the blog closer, it says "First. MSDS sheets should be kept up-to-date. Manufacturers and suppliers should send updated MSDS sheets when available. This means that when a new MSDS is received with a chemical, the new or updated MSDS should be placed in all the MSDS binders and the old MSDS sheet should be discarded."

    This is correct, when a newer MSDS is received, the old MSDS can be discarded and the new MSDS kept in it's place.

    The OSHA directive on HAZCOM ( has a sample program in Appendix E, which even marks a place for the employer to develop procedures for replacing MSDSs.

  4. I understand the requirement differently.

    an interpetation says...29 CFR 1910.1020(d)(1)(ii)(B) allows an employer to exercise an option with regard to retaining MSDS's for 30 years. Either the specific MSDS's are to be retained or some record of the identity of the substance, where it was used, and when it was used is to be maintained....

    For example, if the product used to contain hex chrome, but the updated MSDS sheet no longer list chrome then how would you show exposure if the employer "discards" the old MSDS.

    I read the directive you listed and appendix E does not say discard the old...

  5. Valid point, however, read this letter:

    So maybe the real answer is a combination of what we said.

  6. Complexity leads to confusion. A confused mind says "no". An agency that is not supported by the public is in danger of fading away. An agency only exists with significant public support. Keep adding new standards, endless programs, different interpretations, no standardization of anything, make it up as you go and violate the OSHA Act with quotas(sorry goals) and with no two CSHOs even know anything to be the same. Confusion reigns. You reap what you sow and OSHA is obviously devoid of rocket scientists. Therefore, OSHA has earned and deserves every problem they now have and will create in the future for themselves.

  7. "An agency that is not supported by the public is in danger of fading away. An agency only exists with significant public support." Really? Find me two people who support the IRS.

    The issues we face are largely not of our own making, they were created by outside political forces (ie the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretaries).

    By the way, we have more than just a few people who used to work at NASA.

  8. Abel
    You sound like a schill for OSHA. You point out OSHA problems but you defend OSHA always in the end. You are biased and have no creditability. You can delete this post since it is to you, but you have been revealed. You are 100% bureaucrat and apparently can't help it. You probably think HR 3200 would be a great health plan since the government would run things.