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No Injury, No Property Damage and yet OSHA Safety Fine Reaches 7 Figures

Democrats in Congress have introduced bills to raise the federal OSHA fines, something that hasn’t been done in two decades. But even without new legislation, OSHA is finding ways to issue large fines.

After being issued the largest fine in OSHA’s history ($87 million) BP once again faces a multi-million dollar penalty from the workplace safety and health agency. It wasn’t a death, injuries or explosion that brought OSHA to this BP plant. It was inspected just because it was a refinery. OSHA often reacts to catastrophic workplace accidents by starting National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) to inspect businesses with similar hazards.

Example: After the Imperial Sugar plant explosion near Savannah, GA, in 2008, OSHA initiated an NEP for combustible dust hazards. As part of an NEP targeting refineries, BP’s plant near Toledo, OH, has been hit with just over $3 million in citations. OSHA used per-instance citations and classified many of them as willful, a categorization that carries larger fines. More than half BP’s fine - $1.82 million _ stemmed from 26 per-instance, willful violations.

(Reprinted: Fred Hosier, 3/16/2010)