Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.
Workers often fear retaliation if they report a safety violation or work injury related to a violation. Concerns about being fired or other forms of retaliation by employers permeate the process of worker’s comp claims filing. Studies have indicated that retaliatory fear prompts many workers not to file either OSHA or workers’ comp claims. Workers also don’t want to be perceived as careless or complaining. In a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of OSHA reporting, occupational health providers often reported to workers’ fear of retaliation as a reason for underreporting. Fully 2/3 of health providers “reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness.”
Pressure from co-workers also prompts failure to report safety violations and comp claims. Safety incentive programs (sometimes called “safety bingo” ) create incentives not to report, since non-reporting leads to a reward for a work group. If one worker reports his injury, the entire crew may pay the price. The GAO survey found this peer pressure to be a troubling factor contributing to underreporting to OSHA. (Anecdotally, I remember a worker who cut off his finger on a Friday, wrapped it in a hankie and put it in his pocket , rather than report the injury and disappoint his fellow employees looking forward to a case of beer reward for “100 consecutive safe work days”).
OSHA is currently proposing new electronic, public reporting rules for large employers.
Image © BP p.l.c.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (DLI) has cited the BP Cherry Point petroleum refinery in Blaine for six violations, including one “willful violation,” of workplace safety and health rules related to management of pipeline and refinery processes. The proposed penalties total $81,500.
A willful violation is the most significant civil classification that can be issued.
A willful violation is the most significant civil classification that can be issued. It is used when DLI alleges that the violation was committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference or substitution of judgment with respect to worker safety and health regulations.
DLI began the inspection in February after a major fire caused the refinery to shut down for a period of time. One employee was nearby when the fire erupted, but he was able to escape without harm.
The fire occurred when a corroded “deadleg” pipe ruptured. Deadlegs are pipes that aren’t often used but still must be monitored for integrity for when they are needed to carry material used in the refining process.
DLI cited the company for a “willful” violation for not ensuring that inspection and testing procedures for process piping followed recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices for all deadleg piping circuits. The proposed penalty for the willful violation is $65,000.
The five additional violations cited were for failing to comply with Process Safety Management standards, the requirements for managing hazards associated with processes that use highly hazardous chemicals.
The company has until Sept. 13 to appeal the citation. A copy of the citation is available upon request.
For more information about this or other DLI news, click here.