Last week, OSHA announced that it cited Republic Steel for 24 safety violations at one of its mills. Fifteen of the 24 violations were willful. The background regarding OSHA’s actions are described in the article in EHSToday, which is a useful website for anyone interested in safety issues. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, described Republic’s safety efforts as “unacceptable” and noted that “Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health.”
Pam is often called on to counsel manufacturing clients who are facing OSHA fines and violations. From a litigation and risk management perspective, I often tell clients that they should view OSHA citations as having a much broader impact than the particular incident. I often remember school officials telling us that bad conduct would appear on our “permanent record.” I was never sure whether such a “permanent record” existed in school, but I know it exists in the business world.
Many times, the first move by any seasoned lawyer is to send a FOIA (The Freedom of Information Act) request to the government to determine whether the manufacturer/distributor has ever been in trouble before. OSHA makes this information available directly on its website. Obviously, such records could have a negative impact on any litigation, including, anything to do with an employee. As a result, it is critical that manufacturers/distributors work closely with their legal counsel at the earliest stages of any government investigation.