Safety and OSHA News

Company that bashed OSHA on YouTube ordered to pay $42K for contempt

Companies have the right to require OSHA to get a warrant before allowing a safety and health inspection. But once OSHA has a warrant, continuing to prevent an inspection can be costly.

A court has ordered a Galva, IL, pet food production and packaging facility to pay almost $42,000 in fines for contempt and attorney’s fees in a dispute with OSHA.

On May 3, 2011, OSHA sought and received a warrant to inspect the All-Feed Processing and Packaging facility. OSHA wanted to conduct an inspection after receiving employee complaints of hazardous working conditions including excessive dust and noise. All-Feed had blocked two inspections in April 2011.

OSHA presented its warrant to All-Feed on May 4, 2011, and started an inspection. However, All-Feed refused to allow OSHA to finish the inspection by conducting representative personal samplings as authorized in the warrant.

The case eventually wound up in U.S. District Court, which found All-Feed to be in civil contempt.

OSHA wanted $500/day fines from May 4, 2011, until an inspection was eventually completed on Aug. 26, 2011.

All-Feed argued that it had agreed to an OSHA inspection on July 5, 2011. The court agreed with that, saying part of the reason the inspection wasn’t completed until Aug. 26 was because of delays on OSHA’s part. So the contempt period was limited to the 62 days between May 4 and July 5. At $500/day, the fine comes to $31,000.

The court also ordered All-Feed to pay $10,964.95 for OSHA’s attorneys’ fees.

The Aug. 26 inspection resulted in $758,400 in fines against All-Feed, primarily for dust and noise violations. That matter is still unresolved.

The company has been inspected 11 times since 2000, with OSHA finding more than 70 violations.

All-Feed also posted videos on YouTube calling OSHA the “oppression of American business.”

The company took down the YouTube videos, but its own website still states that OSHA “has been knocking on our door consistently for the better part of the last decade, harassing and falsely accusing us of providing a ‘dangerous workplace.’ They have fined us beyond any reasonable measure.”

The web post goes on to call the OSHA fines against All-Feed “cruel and unusual,” and says the agency is “bullying us into submission without any cause or justification.”

Many attorneys who represent companies in legal disputes with OSHA advise employers to be ready for OSHA inspections and not refuse an inspector to enter. Reason: Why start off on a bad foot with an agency that has the ability to fine you up to $70,000 for each violation?

Do you think it was a bad idea for All-Feed to refuse the inspection? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. It was perfectly within their rights to refuse entry into the facility. I however; wouldn’t have refused sampling after they had a warrant.

    Why on earth should the company have to pay OSHA’s attorney fees? Companies get no reimbursement for attorney fees from OSHA when OSHA loses cases. That part may be the most disgusting part of the article. That is even more ridiculous in OSHA trying to get 500/day in fines because they couldn’t schedule the testing once the company granted them permission.

    As far as attorneys recommending to let OSHA in without a warrant, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that attorneys make more in contesting citations then they do in preventing them in the first place. OSHA as a government agency should not be punishing employers for asserting their rights under the 5th amendment. The conventional wisdom seems to be that an inspection will go alot worse if employers require OSHA to get a warrant. I on the other hand, think it should be the industry norm.

  2. alecfinn says:

    Let’s see OSHA is oppressive by doing its job…………You block them and expect to get off Scott free?

    That sounds silly. Actually that sounds beyond silly……..Just from this article if I were an inspector I would want to know what they were covering up if anything.. ……This type of behavior is usually from the guilty……..People and agencies that have issues they do not want uncovered act like this.

    They need to open their doors shut up pay the fine (that can usually be lowered but with their behavior if I were OSHA I would tend to be stubborn), OSHA does not have secrets but if you do not want to consult with them contact someone in the same field to check you out and then correct your problems.

    In the mean time hope no one in the hous gets hurt or killed……

    GGGGGGEEEEZZZZZzzzzzz

  3. I just wonder how many violations they covered up or removed in the process of delaying the inspection!

  4. Our company has went to great lengths to become compliant in the last 5 years. Efforts included working with the state OSHA officials (that the federal officials think are a joke) to audit and correct problems as well as other groups to become prepared. When OSHA showed up at our door they were invited in. They spent 1 day going over three years of paper work and found 1 improper posting. The second day they went trough our plant and found approximately 7 “serious” violations. They included improper LOTO on a piece of equipment that would have taken 4 seperated steps to start to a center cap missing off of a fan guard. The fine for the cap appx. $1700. There was also an electrical outlet that was cracked and was no longer in use. It was 5’8″ off of the floor. If it was 4 inches higher there would have been no problem, fine $1700. Long story short while we do everything we can to keep our employees safe including following all the regulations that we are aware of they will not be invited back into our plant without a warrant. All of the violations except 1 we were charged with did not meet their own definitions of a “serious”. We have nothing to hide but their motives are not simply to keep employees safe. One mans opinion!

  5. sheralroh says:

    The only thing that drives me crazy is that from one OSHA inspector to the next, their perception of what needs to be addressed during an inspection differs drastically. One year, we had an inspector fine us for our gas cylinders being positioned too close to each other – flammable vs. non-flammable. We moved them to the appropriate distance apart; installed a 7ft high steel flame divider between them as requested by the first inspector. Then 2 years later, the second inspector had us move them all around again. It is crazy that they don’t at least have basic guidelines for their inspections. I am all for keeping our workers safe, but please be consistent about it.
    This company was just plan crazy for embarking on the stall tactics they did. Pay up. Move on.

    • Make them cite – chapter and verse – the violation in Regs, law, or code. Also make them document the “fix” according to same. Refuse to sign off on any inspection that does not document violations in this way. You have a right to be protected from arbitrary enforcement actions.

  6. For every horror story about an inspection such as Jerry C is reporting there a thousand stories of people getting killed or maimed by irresponsible employers.

    I work in medical facilities and we are subject to several inspections that can actually close us. We have standards for every facet of our operations from how we talk to patients and their families to how we repair a door. In one inspection there are over 2,700 standards that have to be met and there are sub standards that also have to be met. There is compliant non-compliant intent to meet standards corrective actions reports of actions to be taken and taken performance improvement guidelines and what is called a Root Cause Analysis.

    I guess we are just used to oversight and the idea that frequently we have to kow-tow to the surveyors and their moods. This is not excuse making but reality for the surveyors/inspectors are human too. But there is always a appeal process

    Not too long ago OSHA and other organizations’ designed to help the working person were stripped of their authority maybe some are too gung-ho. But if you ever worked in an environment where concern for the workers was not considered (I have) then the relevance of these organizations becomes obvious and needed.

    Most of the standards can and should be met or exceeded this is not rocket science as there are many organizations’ that provide the same product/service any organization provides. Finding out the best way to meet standards is not difficult if you have an open attitude and frequently/most of the time it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel as it’s is there already.

    Jerry C I feel for you having been through long inspections’ (sometimes for weeks) and having to deal with surveyors that were frustrated or self important is stressful and frustrating. But giving a regulatory agency a hard time seems to just make them more difficult to deal with, instead invite them to help solve the problems as that frequently avoids…

  7. Let’s just say, It’s a lot like stopping at a 4-way stop. You know you have the right of way. But should you enforce it? You can be right, but you can be dead right too. Don’t ask for a warrent. They’ll get it before you have a chance to clean-up. The key is to be ready all the time. Be agreeable. Take them where they want to go through the most direct route. Don’t take them through areas not associated with their request, as those areas may be commented upon.

  8. If companies are allowed to demand a warrant prior to an OSHA inspection they should not be penalized for exercising their rights. It should be part of the OSHA inspector’s training to respect those rights. I do think the fines are exorbitant and that the inspections are too focused on minor things. We had a mock OSHA inspection and they said that OSHA could fine for each container they found expired and to be careful as they are putting expiration dates on things like soap and bottled water. They also said that we had to have a biohazard label on our washers as human fluids are probably on the clothing. If OSHA wants to be super zealous and imagines all sorts of harm that could come from expired soap and an unlabeled washer than they should write companies up for these violations but fining a company for such minor violations should not occur.

    I attended a presentation given by a police agency regarding drugs. They don’t have the funds to go after the minor offenses and they only go after the more major offenders. People are dying in the drug wars. We see the same thing with our screening and monitoring of visas and immigration. People have died due to lax immigration policies allowing criminals and terrorists into our country. Yet the government has all sorts of money to pay inspectors to look at expiration dates on soap containers and for biohazard labels on washers. It just reminds me of Les Miserables and Inspector Javert. We ought to prioritize where the government is spending their time and money.

  9. alecfinn says:

    If you have nothing to hide then why a warrant?

    As far as the washers a note from standard Infection Control Practices -All soiled clothing and linens are considered contaminated as there are so many infectious agents, that is what they were talking about.

    Melanie a question in your company the staff that uses the washers do they use protective clothing when loading the washers? Is Protective clothing used when transferring the washed clothing to the dryers? In a Major Laundry staffs have to wear full protective clothing to load the washers and the linen cannot be sorted until washed because of Infection Control. Also you cannot remove laundered clothing from washers in clothing used to load the washer cross contamination. I worked in a hospital where they tracked down a staph infection in 80% of their patients due to washers being unladed by staff still wearing the protective clothing they loaded the washers with Staff can be a horrendous infection.

    The dating of items came into being because there was no way to determine if something has expired or if the package expiration date has passed. Would you like to have your appendix removed by medical equipment that was sterilized a year ago?

    In this day and age there are so many infectious agents and so many looking to make a quick buck many agencies have reacted this way.

  10. Bottom line All-feed is guilty:) That is why they made the utube video and told their employees to watch it. The video was made to warn employee not to speak to OSHA. They also had employees clock out and leave the plant when OSHA showed up. Any employee who was pulled to speak to OSHA alone was than harassed. I love how they make up fake names and leave comments. Pay your fines and take care of your employees. Get your heads out of your ass and you might see what is going really on in your plant..My advice to you Tim Anderson is stop fighting OSHA, fix up the plant and drug test all your employees. While you are spending time fighting OSHA you are so unaware of what is really going on. Did anyone ever wonder if maybe the employees were making meth and that is what started the fire. Just saying:)

  11. IL Eavesdropping Act says:

    The Video and Audio recording of OSHA’s CSHOs while conducting any investigation would keep transparency and continuity between both parties during said on-site investigation. In this case OSHA’s CSHOs, Federal employees while on duty, decided to evoke the Illinois Eavesdropping Act as Illinois State Citizens in order to remove all Audio from the video recordings to cover up any mistakes and manipulative tactics the CSHOs could have made while conducting their investigation. For those of you unaware of what the IL Eavesdropping Act entails, I suggest you Google this “Act” and educate yourself. It may just help you understand why Illinois is in the top tier of “Most Corrupt States in the Union”.

  12. Press Release says:

    04/11/2012 – Alpha, IL
    All-Feed Views OSHA Press Releases as Continued Harassment

    OSHA has doubled down on its public harassment of small businesses with a second press release regarding the same contempt charges it publicized in August of 2011. All-Feed believes this is part of OSHA’s so called “regulation by shaming” campaign, outlined by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Jordan Barab, at a National Occupational Research Agenda Symposium in 2011. All-Feed believes that this type of “David vs. Goliath” public relations propaganda war only makes it harder for small business to focus on worker safety, OSHA compliance, and the daily task of keeping a business afloat and workers in full employment.

    OSHA’s comments on the most recent court order fail to mention that the warrant was fully satisfied, and OSHA completed its inspection some seven months before the order was issued. OSHA also failed to mention that the District Court Judge acknowledged that All-Feed had satisfied the warrant even before a hearing in the matter was held, and criticized OSHA for not agreeing to complete the inspection before going to Court, despite All-Feed’s unconditional offer to allow OSHA to conduct whatever monitoring OSHA desired. Finally, OSHA failed to mention that OSHA agreed in August 2011 that the fines would be purged “once OSHA is allowed to conduct full-shift monitoring of employees’ exposure to dust and noise under normal plant operating conditions without interference,” which they admit happened long ago. The re-hashing of this case is not the result of any unsafe or contentious acts by All-Feed.

    All-Feed sincerely believes that the contempt case was brought in retaliation for the company exercising its right to: (1) request a warrant; (2) try to negotiate with OSHA a way to minimize the extraordinary burden on the business caused by OSHA’s repeated intrusions into the workplace; and (3) video record the inspectors’ activities during the…

  13. There may be as many reasons as stars in the sky for and against OSHA, warrant entries, numbers of re-inspections and amounts of fines, but the fact of the matter is that this country is losing manufacturing jobs. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of watching as over 3,000 manufacturing jobs in various facilites I’ve serviced in my career were moved to Asia to avoid dealing with OSHA on a repeat basis. I make no claim as to right or wrong for their actions. It is simply the reality of the situation.

    We all have to work to reverse this or we all face a very limited industry to “service”.

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