Disclosing Violations to EPA in a Digital Age

Thank you to my colleague Bob Melvin for his contributions to the post below. Bob is a partner in the Environmental & Utilities Practice Group whose practice focuses on representing manufacturers with enforcement, compliance, and permitting issues.

Under EPA’s Audit Policy and Small Business Compliance Policy, companies that discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct environmental violations may be entitled to penalty mitigation and other incentives. EPA recently developed a proposed plan for efficient and consistent disclosure of violation discoveries. In the Fall of 2015, the Agency plans to launch its “eDisclosure” portal for the reporting of both Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and non-EPCRA violations under EPA’s Audit Policy. The web-based program would not change any of the Audit Policy criteria, but it would dramatically change the manner in which the Policy is implemented.

To use the eDisclosure portal, a company must register with the system, disclose violations online within 21 days of discovery, and submit an online Compliance Report certifying that it corrected any noncompliance.

The portal will provide for two tiers of disclosures – Tier 1 and Tier 2. Tier 1 disclosures generally include most EPCRA disclosures (not to be confused with tier I and II EPCRA reporting). The online Compliance report must be submitted within 60 days from the date of discovery under the Audit Policy and 90 days from the date of discovery under the Small Business Compliance Policy, with no opportunity for an extension. The system will then automatically generate an electronic Notice of Determination, or “eNOD”, conditionally confirming that the violations are resolved without civil penalties.

Tier 2 disclosures generally include all EPCRA violations not covered by Tier I and all non-EPCRA violations. While the same timelines for submittal of the Compliance Report for Tier 1 disclosures apply to Tier 2 disclosures, there is an opportunity for an extension to those deadlines under Tier 2. The system will automatically issue an Acknowledgement Letter noting EPA’s receipt of a Tier 2 violation. The Acknowledgement Letter will also confirm the Agency’s commitment to determining eligibility for penalty mitigation if and when the Agency considers the matter and decides to take an enforcement action.

EPA’s proposed program seems to be designed to streamline the disclosure process, but companies looking for written resolutions documenting no penalty or enforcement action may be disappointed. In addition, not only is EPA planning to make this web portal the exclusive method for making most Audit Policy disclosures, it also plans to maintain the centralized database out of EPA Headquarters. Information disclosed on the portal is expected to be public and accessible under the Freedom of Information Act.

EPA’s website provides more information on its proposed eDisclosure portal, the process for implementation, and the Audit Policy in general.

Even More Reason for Manufacturers to Update Their Employment Agreements

In an increasingly competitive landscape, a manufacturer’s significant employees may hold the “keys to the kingdom.” Loss of such a worker to a competitor could have a substantial impact on future business growth. Many manufacturers invest significant resources to keep key employees and, by doing so, preserve their market advantage.  Strategic use of employment agreements, post-employment restrictions and confidentiality provisions have been a proven tool to help protect trade secrets, customer relationships and confidential information.

Two recent developments highlight the need for manufacturers to periodically review and update the employment agreements of their key executive, R&D and sales employees.

On June 3, 2015, the Connecticut Legislature adopted a measure effectively making unlawful any confidentiality agreement which would prohibit employees from discussing wages. Misleadingly labeled “An Act Concerning Pay Equity and Fairness,” the law prohibits employers from preventing employees from disclosing their own wages or the wages of any other employee who otherwise voluntarily disclosed it to them. The law does not limit in any way the entity to which this information may be disclosed nor does it require the express consent of the individual whose wages are being disclosed. The Governor is widely expected to sign the legislation and it would become effective on July 1, 2015.

The “Pay Equity” Act, as written, permits an employee to disclose what many could consider to be confidential information to competitors. So, for example, if a key sales-employee casually mentions her or his compensation schedule to a co-worker, that co-worker has license to share that information with anyone else. This means former employees who go to work for a competitor are seemingly free to share the compensation data of their peers and co-workers, helping the competitor recruit future defectors. The “Pay Equity” Act also makes “retaliation” for disclosing such information unlawful and authorizes a private cause of action and an award of compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

The second significant development occurred on June 12, 2015, when the New York Court of Appeals refused to apply the parties’ selected choice of law because that law was “repugnant” to the public policy of New York State. Most employment agreements, and especially those which contain provisions restricting an employee’s activities after she or her leaves employment, contain so-called “choice of law” provisions. Under a choice of law provision, the parties can select the law of a particular jurisdiction which they may wish to apply when interpreting the agreement. In Brown and Brown v. Johnson, the parties’ agreement selected Florida law as governing law in any dispute. However, when the plaintiff sought to enjoin its former employee from violating her post-employment restrictions, the defendant argued that New York (not Florida law) should govern. The Court of Appels ultimately agreed, holding that Florida law with respect to post-employment restrictions was “truly obnoxious” and inconsistent with New York’s public policy as Florida law did not give sufficient consideration to the interests of the individual employee.

These two developments show that manufacturers must constantly assess the means and manner in which they protect both employees and information from unfair competition.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Continues To Focus On Manufacturers’ Warranties

As readers of the blog know, we have written previously about the importance of periodically reviewing warranty language to avoid scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).   This week, the FTC blog published another article entitled “The latest word of warranties.”

In the post, the FTC offered the following guidance:

If your business offers warranties, here are some steps to consider:

  • Read your warranties to see if they prohibit a consumer from using other sellers’ parts or services – or if consumers might read your warranty to imply that. Conform your policies to the just-announced clarifications to the Warranty Act’s Interpretations.
  • Check your website to make sure your warranties are posted close to the warranted products.
  • Review your warranties and service contracts to ensure all material terms and conditions are disclosed clearly and conspicuously.
  • Read the FTC’s brochure, A Businessperson’s Guide to Federal Warranty Law.

My take on this post is that it reaffirms that the FTC continues to focus on consumer warranties and ensuring that a normal consumer would be able to understand what is and what is not covered.  Ultimately, a warranty is only good if it can be enforced so there needs to be balance between disclaiming liability and offering service to consumers.

Superfund Divisibility Defense Gets New Life

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, is a federal law under which contaminated sites are identified and evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA designates certain sites for cleanup and pursues potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to investigate and remediate those sites.

Liability under CERCLA is joint and several. Under such a scheme, any party that contributed “hazardous substances”, a term broadly defined in CERCLA, to a site can be held liable for the entire cleanup. Because it is fairly easy to establish a PRP’s liability, Superfund sites tend to capture a lot of PRPs. Any manufacturer that uses, produces, or disposes of hazardous substances could be at risk.

While most cases under CERCLA rest on joint and several liability, there are some defenses that, if proven, may allow a party to escape it. One of these defenses is divisibility – if a party can prove that the harm is divisible, or capable of being apportioned in some way, the party will only be held liable for its fair share of the harm. The divisibility defense has been notoriously hard to prove. It was recognized and used by the Supreme Court in 2009, but countless parties have tried to use it since – and failed – until now.

In May 2015, a federal court in Wisconsin proved that the divisibility defense is alive and well. In that case, a PRP, NCR Corporation, argued that its contribution of contamination to the Fox River was divisible and response costs should be apportioned appropriately. The court agreed, holding that NCR’s volumetric contribution of waste was a proper basis for apportioning its liability at the site. The court evaluated the range of NCR’s percentage contribution of hazardous substances to Fox River, and used that range to determine how much NCR had to pay towards the cleanup. Importantly, the court held that “it is reasonableness, not scientific precision, that governs an apportionment analysis.”

The divisibility defense will always hinge on the facts of a particular case. But the fact that it has been acknowledged and used by a federal court is good news for anyone that uses, produces, or disposes of hazardous substances. Given the complex and costly nature of CERCLA cleanups, avoidance of joint and several liability can significantly reduce a party’s exposure, and the divisibility defense is one way to get there.

The case is United States v. NCR Corp., et al., No. 10-C-910 (E.D. Wis., May 15, 2015).

Teamster Plan to Cut Pensions Presents Significant Issues for Manufacturers

In April, the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund (“Central States”) announced its intention to cut the benefits of retired workers under the recently enacted 2014 Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (“MEPRA”). I previously blogged about the MEPRA in December. There I noted that, for those financially stressed pension plans seeking protection, the process for implementing benefit cuts would likely begin in 2015, with the actual cuts themselves not felt until 2016 at the earliest. As if on cue, with its announcement, Central States becomes the first multiemployer pension plan to seek relief under the new law.

The troubled financial status of Central States explains why its Trustees felt dramatic action was needed. According to Central States’ Executive Director Thomas Nyham, Central States has a $2 billion annual funding shortfall and is only 50 percent funded. During an April 14, 2015 “Town Hall” conference call, Nyham disclosed that Central States would be insolvent by 2026 – a mere eleven years from today. Thus, Nyham explained, if the Trustees did not take action, by 2026 all Central States’ retirees’ and participants’ retirement benefits would be worthless. You can read Central States announcement or listen to an audio recording of the Town Hall call here.

The precise scope of the planned benefit reductions have not been announced.  The U.S. Treasury Department must still issue the MEPRA implementing regulations (expected this summer). Central States must then proposal a “Rescue Plan” for Treasury Department approval, followed by an approval vote by all plan participants. It should be noted, however, that the Treasury Department may implement a Rescue Plan rejected by the plan participants if the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) faced projected liability of more than $1 billion as a result of plan insolvency, a threshold which Nylan disclosed would certainly be met by Central States’ collapse.

While the plight of Central States may represent an extreme, its financial difficulties are not unique. In its 2014 Annual Report, the PBGC reported that its multiemployer pension plan deficit reached a record $42 billion and that its risk of insolvency was 50% by 2022 and 90% by 2025. A significant number of the 1400 multiemployer pension plans in the United States face financial pressures similar to Central States and this writer expects the Central States’ “Rescue Plan” to become one roadmap to address the looming crisis.

The Central States’ “pension cut” approach is not the only option troubled plans have followed in recent years. In August 2012, UPS announced an agreement with the New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund (“NETTI”) to restructure the pension liabilities of its 10,000 UPS employees. In that restructuring, UPS agreed to immediately begin paying its $2.1 billion withdrawal liability (over fifty years) and remain in the fund by contributing to a separate “pool.” Since that restructuring of the NETTI, other employers have followed the UPS lead.

Manufacturers currently contributing to multiemployer pension plans should take special notice of the Central States’ and NETTI’s competing approaches. Among other things, manufacturers approaching bargaining in 2015 or 2016 should consider:

  • The funding status of the multiemployer pension plans to which they contribute;
  • Given the uncertain funding status of some plans, whether active employees will seek or a manufacturer should offer supplemental pension benefits in some form;
  • Whether reducing plan contributions or moving contributions to a designated pool would trigger withdrawal liability;
  • To the extent a manufacturer’s multiemployer plan follows the Central States’ approach and seeks to cut retiree benefits, whether retirees will seek the opportunity to return to the workforce in a part-time, temporary or reduced capacity and, if so, whether the manufacturer would be willing to consider such an option given conflicting seniority, bumping, and other contractual obligations.

To the extent that manufacturers face funding short-falls in the multiemployer plans covering their employees or retirees, proactive planning becomes essential. Central States’ decision to cut retiree pension benefits may turn out to be the “canary in the coal mine” – a warning of the coming crisis.

Avoiding a Rocky Road: Lessons For Manufacturers From Blue Bell Creameries’ Listeria Investigation

The post below was written by my colleagues, Edward Heath and Kate Dion.  Edward is my partner and is Chair of Robinson + Cole’s White-Collar Defense and Corporate Compliance Practice.  Kate is a litigation associate who routinely handles government and internal investigations for manufacturing clients.

Ice cream maker Blue Bell Creameries has found itself in a sticky situation that underscores the importance of a having a comprehensive and robust compliance program, even for companies who do not manufacture consumer products.

Blue Bell sells its ice cream throughout much of the United States and numerous foreign countries.  It is reportedly the third highest-selling ice cream brand in the United States.  Unfortunately, according to documents released as part of a Food and Drug Administration investigation, Blue Bell is also reported to have known of listeria in its Oklahoma plant as early as March 2013 but failed to issue any recalls or warnings or halt production until this year after the products were publicly linked to listeria illnesses, which resulted in three deaths in Kansas.  

In a recent statement, Blue Bell acknowledged that it did not adequately improve its cleaning and manufacturing practices even after it learned that its machinery was testing positive for listeria.  The FDA’s investigation report cited many shortcomings of Blue Bell’s compliance program.  In April, Blue Bell recalled its products and halted all sales. Extensive employee layoffs and furloughs followed, along with considerable negative media attention.

Comprehensive compliance programs include not only provisions that adopt industry standards and good manufacturing practices for day-to-day operations, but also processes for properly investigating potential compliance failures.  A conflict-free individual is designated to receive compliance concerns and then report them to management, who then would insure that an independent, thorough, and complete investigation is conducted.  The internal investigation gathers and preserves the relevant evidence, assesses the extent of any failures, analyzes potential criminal and civil liability, and may propose remedial measures.  The results are sometimes memorialized in a report, although it is not always appropriate to do so.

Compliance programs may provide for management to decide whether outside counsel will be retained to conduct the internal investigation. One critical factor in that decision is whether future criminal or civil litigation, or a government investigation is likely, since maintaining the confidentiality of the investigation is greater if it is conducted by outside counsel.

Done early and properly, an internal investigation may best position a manufacturer to avoid a costly, public crisis that has the potential to devastate sales, damage the brand’s reputation, trigger Government investigations and sanctions, foster resource-draining class action lawsuits, and cause management and other employees to lose their jobs.

This is true for all manufacturers, not just those who make consumer goods like Blue Bell.

OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Deadline Fast Approaching – Say Hello to New Safety Data Sheets

It seems like so long ago (just over three years, to be exact) that OSHA revised its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). But an important HCS deadline is fast approaching – it is time to say goodbye to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

The revised HCS requires that all chemical manufacturers, importers, employers, and distributors replace Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) with new, GHS-approved Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The information contained in a SDS is largely the same as in a MSDS, but it is laid out in a consistent, 16-section format set forth in this OSHA Brief.

Manufacturers and importers must provide the new SDSs for all hazardous chemicals they manufacture or import by June 1, 2015. But what about manufacturers or formulators that rely on raw materials from other suppliers? According to a recent Guidance Memo, OSHA “will exercise its enforcement discretion”, allowing a “reasonable time period” for downstream users to come into compliance with the new requirement. In exercising this discretion, OSHA will evaluate whether the downstream user has exercised “reasonable diligence” and “good faith efforts.” But what does that mean? According to OSHA Guidance, manufacturers and importers must be prepared to show significant efforts to:

  • Obtain the classification information and SDSs from upstream suppliers in a time frame that would have allowed for compliance with the June 1, 2015 deadline,
  • Find hazard information from other sources (such as chemical registries), and
  • Classify the data themselves.

OSHA will expect to see both oral and written documentation of these efforts in order to avoid enforcement. In addition, the manufacturer or importer will need a clear timeline for when it expects to be in compliance.

Distributors of hazardous chemicals may continue to ship chemicals with the old MSDSs until December 1, 2015, to allow time to clear stock. Of course, some distributors will likely find themselves without SDSs from suppliers come December 2 for the very reason described above – a manufacturer or importer cannot comply with the June 1, 2015 deadline, despite “reasonable diligence” and “good faith efforts” to obtain the information. In this situation, the distributor will also have to show its own “reasonable diligence” and “good faith efforts” to comply in order to avoid enforcement. Distributors that are able to do so will be permitted to ship with prior-compliant MSDSs until December 1, 2017.

The revised HCS mandates that employers ensure that their employees have easy access to the SDSs for the hazardous chemicals in their workplace. The OSHA Brief provides some examples for how employers can satisfy this requirement, including using binders or computers to store the SDSs. Compliance requires that employers make sure employees have immediate access to the SDSs, and that a back-up is available.

The Manufacturing Law Blog Welcomes New Authors

It is my pleasure to announce that the Manufacturing Law Blog will have two new authors going forward.  With the departure of our friend and colleague, Pam Elkow, Matt and I have asked Megan Baroni and Earl Phillips to join our team.  Both Megan and Earl are members of our firm’s Environmental + Utilities Group, which Earl has chaired for many years.  In addition to environmental issues, Earl will also be commenting on OSHA issues, which remain on the front burner for all manufacturers and distributors.  We know that Megan and Earl will be an added resource for the readers of this Blog.

Welcome Megan and Earl!

“Light Duty” Work Assignments in Doubt: Supreme Court Adopts New Pregnancy Discrimination Standard Affecting Manufacturers

The United States Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, (U.S. Sup. Ct., March 24, 2015), in which the Court set forth a new standard for litigating pregnancy discrimination claims and arguably injected considerable uncertainty into “restricted duty” or “light duty” work programs.

Factual Background

Peggy Young worked for UPS as a part-time driver. Part of Young’s day-to-day responsibilities included lifting boxes weighing as much as 70 pounds without assistance. Young became pregnant and, in the course of her routine pre-natal care, Young’s doctor advised that she not lift more the 20 pounds during the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy and 10 pounds for the remainder of her pregnancy. The record shows that Young had previously experienced several miscarriages, but there is nothing to suggest Young’s then-current pregnancy was “high risk,” a-typical or otherwise presented medical complications unique to Young. With doctor’s note in hand, Young requested UPS accommodate her lifting restrictions. At the time, UPS had a formal “light duty” work assignment policy under which it would accommodate medical restrictions of employees who were injured “on the job” or those suffering from a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, UPS accommodated workers unable to drive because they lost DOT-required driving certifications. Because Young’s medical condition (her pregnancy) did not fit within any of the categories recognized by UPS, UPS declined to provide her with light duty, instead placing Young on an unpaid leave of absence for the duration of her pregnancy.

Young sued UPS under Title VII claiming that UPS discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy and gender by refusing to provide her with a light duty work assignment which UPS otherwise provided workers with “similar” restrictions.

EEOC Issued New Guidance

While the case worked its way through the courts, the EEOC adopted a controversial Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance. Over the vocal dissent of two EEOC Commissioners, the EEOC opined that Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Amendments to Title VII mandated that employers treat pregnancy-related medical restrictions in the same manner as medical restrictions unrelated to pregnancy. Thus, the EEOC Guidance reasoned, if an employer accommodates the medical restrictions of some workers, that employer must provide the same accommodations to workers with similar restrictions caused by pregnancy. (For Robinson+Cole’s Alert on the EEOC Guideline, click here.)

Availability of Restricted Duty Programs

A significant number of manufacturers and other employers have created formal restricted duty work assignment programs designed to continue employing employees unable to perform the full-range of their normal work duties because of medical restrictions.. Workers compensation carriers often encourage employers provide these alternative assignments to reduce workers compensation costs, reasoning that it is better to receive some economic benefit from the worker than to compensate an otherwise productive employee who is inactive. Other employers have adopted such programs to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which require an employer to reasonably accommodate a worker suffering from a covered disability. Even if an employer has not adopted a formal policy providing for restricted duty work assignments, many employers have informal, ad hoc arrangements which relieve a worker of required tasks for various periods of time due to medical or other issues, for example, reassigning a worker who has driving responsibilities after the suspension of her or his drivers’ license.

Given the significant number of companies with restricted work assignment policies, the EEOC’s Guidance and the anticipated Court decision drew considerable attention.

The Court’s Decision

Rejecting the legal standards offered by every party involved in the case (Young, the United States as a “friend of the court,” and UPS), the Court crafted an entirely new standard for assessing the legality of employer restricted duty work policies when challenged as discriminatory on the basis of gender and pregnancy.

First, the Supreme Court rejected Young’s and the EEOC’s position as over-reaching, explaining that nothing in the legislative history of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or Title VII suggested that Congress intended to extend to pregnant employees a “most favored nations” status. The Court rejected the EEOC’s Guidance, noting that it was adopted after the Court granted review in the case, was addressing a topic on which the EEOC had been silent for a lengthy period of time, and advanced a position inconsistent with that advanced by the EEOC in litigation over the years.

Having rejected the position advanced by Young and the EEOC, the Court also rejected the position advanced by UPS – that its policy was lawful on its face because it treated in the same manner all non-work-related medical restrictions (those cause by pregnancy and those caused by other non-work related medical issues). That approach, the Court wrote, ignores the clear Congressional intent in adopting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act – a mandate that employers treat pregnant employees the same as other employees experiencing “similar” medical issues.

The Court crafted a new test. The Court held that an employee challenging an employment policy on the basis of pregnancy discrimination could establish a threshold case of discrimination by showing that the employer failed to accommodate her and accommodated others with “similar” medical restrictions. The employer could defend that claim by showing that it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for distinguishing between the two classes of workers – a reason which the Court said normally could not simply be that it was more expensive or less convenient to include pregnant employees in the group accommodated. If the employer met this burden, the plaintiff could still prevail if she could convince a jury that either the employer’s articulated reasons were not true or that employer’s program imposed a significant burden on pregnant workers and the employer’s reasons were not sufficiently strong to justify the burden on pregnant workers.

Practical Impact

The Supreme Court’s Young decision, barely one month old, will force employers to globally address formal or informal restricted duty work assignment policies. The decision makes clear that considerations of cost and convenience, regardless of the size of the employer, normally will not be sufficient to justify any difference in treatment. Furthermore, by suggesting that it is for the jury to decide whether an employer’s proffered reasons for any difference in treatment are “sufficient” in light of the burden on pregnant workers, the Court seemingly precludes summary judgment for employers once an employee sets forth a threshold case of discrimination.

Manufacturers and their legal counsel should undertake a thorough review of their “restricted duty” or “light duty” policies in light of this significant case development.

Recent OSHA Enforcement Actions – Implications for Manufacturers

A good way to get a sense of OSHA’s priorities and focus is to look at the citations it’s recently issued. So this post will highlight just a few of the recent enforcement actions by OSHA Region 1 (MA, CT, VT, NH and ME).

Bantam, Conn. – U.S. Chutes Corp. was cited for nine repeated and 15 serious violations, with a proposed penalty of $94,248. U.S. Chutes is a manufacturer of galvanized laundry chutes. The hazards cited included an out of date respiratory protection program, and other respirator standard violations, the lack of a hazard analysis for personal protective equipment, violations of the hexavalent chromium standard, guarding and electrical issues. The repeat violations are due to similar citations issued in November 2009.

Wallingford, Conn. – R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC, a Wallingford freight shipping terminal, was cited for failing to provide training and personal protective equipment to employees who were exposed to a highly flammable and explosive chemical highly flammable and explosive chemical, tetrahydrofuran. The violations were discovered after a spill to which the employees responded, but without training or proper PPE or equipment. The company faces $86,900 in proposed fines. The repeat violations are due to the fact that OSHA cited the company for similar violations during a 2011 inspection of an R+L terminal in Chicago.

Auburn, Maine – Formed Fiber Technologies LLC uses a variety of machines, including robots, to make polyester carpets and thermoformed trunk liners for the automotive industry. OSHA cited the company for failure to proper safeguards on the machines the employees operate. Specifically, the company was cited for violations of the lock out/tag out and guarding standards. The citations included 2 repeat violations, following a citation by OSHA in 2013 at the company’s Sidney, Ohio, production facility, and five serious violations. The company faces a total of $108,800 in proposed fines.

Nationwide – Central Transport LLC, which has 170 freight shipping terminals nationwide, was cited following multiple inspections over the last several years by OSHA that found that Central Transport repeatedly left dangerously defective forklifts in service in at least 11 shipping terminals in nine states: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. OSHA alleged that the company has known of the hazards since 2006, when OSHA inspections resulted in 11 citations and final orders requiring Central Transport to remove damaged forklifts from service. However, OSHA inspections in 2014 of company freight terminals in Billerica, Massachusetts, and Rock Island and Hillside, Illinois, found that the company, despite its awareness of the hazards involved, knowingly allowed this dangerous practice to continue at multiple locations.

I’ve tried to write a conclusion several times – and all I can come up with is that these are companies that just missed on the basics. None of these standards – PPE, fork lifts, guarding – are new or exotic or all that complicated. So the lesson – don’t forget the basics.