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Ohio company challenges OSHA safety violation, loses at trial

Companies cited by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for safety-related violations at construction and other work sites can accept the citation -- whether that means paying a fine, remedying a substandard work condition that could lead to a construction accident, equipment accident or other injury or terminating engagement in a dangerous activity -- or challenge OSHA's determination.

An Ohio-based painting company recently took the latter course and lost.

M&J Painting was cited with a number of serious violations in 2010 while carrying out a cleaning and painting project on a bridge in another state. OSHA inspectors were especially concerned with what was termed "a lack of horizontal lines" used by workers, which created a serious fall hazard. The company was ordered to take remedial measures immediately.

It didn't. When OSHA investigators returned last year for a follow-up check, M&J employees refused to even let them enter the work site. The inspectors obtained a search warrant and, following their return, noted the persisting insufficiency and issued a failure-to-abate citation.

M&J's management contested that violation, despite an OSHA assessment that the lack of lines for workers created a heightened risk of serious injury and even fatality at the work site.

The matter went to trial before an administrative law judge who, following three days of testimony, ruled in favor of OSHA and demanded that M&J take the mandated abatement action. The company was also fined $19,250.

"The Department of Labor will not hesitate to pursue appropriate legal action on behalf of America's workers" said an OSHA spokesperson following the ruling.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "Judge upholds OSHA citation in fall hazard case," Nov. 7, 2012

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