Safety and OSHA News

OSHA fines newspaper for reporter’s fall down stadium stairs


Not only is this a bizarre OSHA fine, it could set a dangerous precedent. The agency has fined a company for an employee’s fatal injury that happened while he was away from his home office on assignment.

Buffalo News sportswriter Tom Borrelli fell while climbing a steep set of stairs on Nov. 8, 2008, at Buffalo’s All High Stadium where he was covering a football game.

Borrelli was trying to enter the stadium’s press box. To get there, reporters have to climb 13 steep metal stairs, prop open a hatch and walk across an unprotected walkway on the stadium roof.

Borrelli apparently hit his head at the top of the stairs and fell down them.

The reporter was paralyzed from the neck down after the fall and died of his injuries 12 days later.

Now OSHA has issued a fine — not against Buffalo public schools, but against the newspaper for sending Borrelli to cover the game. Total fine: $31,500.

OSHA found that:

  • fixed stairways were less than 22 inches wide
  • fixed stairs were installed at an angle to the horizontal greater than 50 degrees
  • stair railings and handrails were not installed according to regulation; instead there was a single pipe-rail 26 inches above the stair tread
  • fixed stairs did not have at least 7 feet of vertical clearance between the stair treads and the overhead obstructions, and
  • a side-hinged door was not used at the top of the stairs; instead, there was a hatchway.

Obviously, the newspaper had no control over any of that. So what’s the reasoning behind fining the newspaper?

“Reporters were exposed to the hazards of falls and head injuries whenever they used the press box,” said Arthur Dube, regional director of OSHA’s Buffalo office.

“The newspaper was aware of these conditions. [It] should have prevented the reporters from using the stairs and the press box until they were corrected,” Dube said.

Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan called OSHA’s fine “illogical.”

She notes that reporters are sent into all sorts of situations, including covering wars, that newspapers can’t control.

A lawyer for Borrelli’s family says a lawsuit against the school district is pending. The family says it has no intention of suing the newspaper because Borrelli was just performing the job he loved on the day of his fatal injury.

The school district has been cited with serious violations by the state and is under order to repair the stairs by July.

Reporters aren’t the only workers who are sent to conduct their jobs off-site. All sorts of contractors and repair people do this every day, as do salespeople.

Imagine being fined by OSHA because your employee suffered a work injury that didn’t happen on your property.

What do you think of this case? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  1. We will soon see the end of private business in this country. It’s just too expensive in too many ways. This is crazy.

  2. Safety Sherri says:

    This is ludicrous. Do I think the school should’ve provided a safe environment? Yes. However, the reporter had been there before and knew what to expect. He didn’t have to sit in the press box. I don’t think the paper should be responsible at all.

  3. I don’t know, I think that at some point people need to be responsible for their own actions.
    If the employee believed that it was unsafe then he shouldn’t have used them. I mean, do you really need to be in the “Press Box” to cover a game? As for the OSHA fine, the school is responsible for providing the unsafe conditions, not the newspaper.

  4. OSHA is “over the top” with this one. I wonder who they will fine when one of their employees fall out of the “clouds” they are working in? I’m sure somehow it will be the fault of some small business! After all, if it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t have a job!

  5. This brings home the point that I have been making to my employees. YOU must take charge of your own safety. If you see something that is unsafe, you must take action on behalf of yourself, your family, and your employer. You must communicate these hazards in a way that creates action which leads to a positive and safe outcome.

    It is crazy to blindly pummel an employer, and not hold the employees accountable. The age of the “innocent” employee who is totally the “Victim” of an evil employer’s negligent (and compensable) greed has brought our economy to its knees. The time has come for management and labor to work together – each one working toward a common goal: Production, Quality, AND Safety.

    That’s what makes America GREAT! That’s what we NEED to do. It begins with ME and you.


  6. It seems to me if this structure/stairway did not meet construction-building code standards. It was only a matter of time before someone was injured. Personally i think the liability should be placed on whomever designed or allowed this dangerous walkway to excist without proper handrails and low headroom warnings. Sadly enough this walkway was not analyzed closely enough until loss of life or serious injury occurred. My heart goes out to the family of the reporter. My question is have proper safety measures been put in to place at this location?

  7. Editor’s reply to Tom J’s question: As of last report, the stairs were not brought up to standard. The school district has until July to do that.

  8. Is there anyone who still believes that we need an even bigger government. This is insanity at it’s best!

  9. As the safety director of an electrical contractor, this concerns me. We constantly receive service calls to go into places such as this to do electrical work. It ultimately needs to fall upon the worker, in this situation, to make safe and sound decisions about what is safe for them; as there cannot be a company representative going on each small service call to see that men are performing safely. The worker then needs to don the appropriate safety equipment. If there is an unsafe condition unknown to the worker, but known to the client (the school, in this case), then, the client should be found at fault.

    I don’t understand how the COMPANY could be found at fault! Is there irrefutable proof that they were ever made aware of the safety violation? If so, how could it be proven that they never instructed the reporter to “not use the unsafe access to the press box”? A company cannot afford to send a safety person on each and every small job. This is where the worker’s training has to come into play. I’m afraid that a precedent much more dangerous to the welfare of workers than a set of steep stairs could EVER be, has been established here. This determination SHOULD not be allowed to go unchallenged! If it remains in force, I can hear the sound of many a small business locking their doors for good.

  10. Unbelievable! OSHA

  11. Has gone way too far. Not the newspapers issue! I believe they should be warned but not sited, because I also believe what Joe said above, We all need to be aware of our situation and take our own safety into our own hands.

  12. Hmm, let’s apply this logic to a few other situations. Convenience stores in dangerous neighborhoods will all need to close down because of the danger to emplyees. Cab drivers will be told not to drive on days when the weather is bad. Contructions workers will have to wear so much protective gear and will be restricted from working in so many situations that contruction timelines and cost will increase greatly. Should we go on? I feel very badly for the reporter and his friends, family, and coworkers but almost every job has some inherent dangers and at some point you have to put the responsibility on the employee.

  13. The school should have gotten the fine for building code violations. The newspaper should pay the family any W/C benifits they have coming. The family should have a suit against the school, property insurance company, the builder, and designer of such an unsafe structure. I’m suprised that no one else had been injured previously on these stairs.

  14. Rodger Martin says:

    Dumbest thing I have ever seen or heard of.

  15. Chris Schram says:

    Wow…OSHA fines the newspaper? I wonder if the newspaper got fined because OSHA wanted to make sure a fine happened somewhere and they didnt care where it went. Did they not want to fine the federally or state funded school? That is what it seems like to me. This admininstration is really pushing OSHA fines, which I believe some was needed, but this is just too much. How are public institutions not liable for injuries on thier property? Maybe the newspaper said go up there or your fired…in that case they ought to be fined and sued!

  16. WHAT is OSHA thinking don’t get me wrong I support the majority of what they do but to fine the newspaper for what is obvious the fault of ownership of the stadium is crazy. The reporter should have used common sense and known better, the school should have recognized the hazard and had it corrected or closed it off until properly repaired so this type occurrence does not happen. I am sure the school could have requested an inspection from its insurance carrier to help identify unknown hazards or contracted private agencies to come in and help identify all potential hazards (including OSHA) on the grounds. I guess now the newspaper will have to send out safety teams to identify all potential hazards before sending its employees to the field to cover the stories. Just plain ole Asinine.

  17. If the reporter had informed the newspaper that the press box was unsafe and was ordered to enter it anyway, then the newspaper could be at fault. Otherwise, all of us routinely engage in risky behavior that we think we can manage (like driving a car). Blaming the employee for bumping his head or slipping on a step is another slippery slope that could end all OSHA responsibility. In this case, the newspaper should sue the school district for the cost of their fine plus legal costs.

  18. SLAM your tasks MSHA says Stop, Look, Analyze, and Manage all of your daily tasks. I guess this really applies to all jobs.

  19. Could OSHA have fined the school for the stairs but issued a non-monetary assessment on the newspaper for this?

    The facility was not under the newspapers jurisdiction to fix the stairs. The newspaper I suppose could say they would not cover the games due to the safety issue–could result in lack of press for the school, some other loss that would have lit a fire under the school to fix the stairs.

    To some extent, the newspaper did send him to the site to do his job. Not sure if it could ahve been done from the stands or if there is some rule that press has to be in the press box. Not saying they are fully responsible, but, they did send the guy there to cover the game–I could not say that they are free and clear from any fault. But hte primary fault is the school.

    Could the paper subrogate this to the school?????

  20. I have work experience w/both OSHA and private industry, and I believe all 4 parties share a portion of the responsibility. Here’s my 2-cents worth:
    1. OSHA: The Agency needs to clearly state the extent that employers are responsible to ensure a safe work environment for field workers, what will constitute “the workplace”, and what its expectations are (including what is achievable) of both the employer and the employees;
    2. Employers: Cannot hide behind naiivete/ostrich head-in-the-sand mentality regarding potential exposure of field personnel to hazardous work environments (Workers’ Comp covers injuries sustained by field workers during the course of their normal duties.) This includes written company policy for safe work-practices and reporting hazardous work areas; written policy for employee expectations and employer liability; training employees to recognize & report potential hazards; requiring employees to report the hazards and providing & permitting use of ppe; permitting safer alternatives when the employer cannot control the hazard; and the employer taking action to have those who do control the hazard to remove or protect against it (in this case, taking it up with the stadium owners.) Construction contractors are expected to protect against weather hazards or terrain irregularities, why shouldn’t news agencies?
    3. Employees: Have the responsibility to report hazardous work environments to their employer asap and take the necessary safety measures to prevent exposure, and wear ppe if situation requires it.
    4. Stadium Owners: Should perform due diligence to make their places safer for the general public who are not using the area daily and therefore not as familiar as stadium personnel (more than likely the stadium’s own employees have had accidents while working-just not fatal ones.)

  21. I must disagree with most comments here. Assuming the story is correct, that the Employer knew about the hazard and still sent the Employee there, then the Employer has some negligence. In a perfect world an employee would recognize the serious hazard and would refuse to do the task. However in my 22 years of experience, I’ve learned that most employees will take a certain amount of risk, if they think they will be OK, in order to get the job done. They won’t step in front of a speeding bus because they KNOW they will lose. But if the risk seems small and they think they can manage it, they will usually take it if the employer expects them to. I

    t takes a lot of training and a very strong safety culture for an employee to feel empowered enough and to be wise enough to even avoid the seemingly less risky situations. Let’s stop blaming the victim here; he paid the ultimate price for his judgment call. Both the school and the employer should have done something about this situation–the school should have closed off the press box until the stairs were made safe, and the employer should have refused to send employees to the press box.

    My uncle, who owns a brick-laying company, once asked me how he could keep his workers safe for a job that involved laying brick located within 5 feet of high-voltage electric lines. I told him he needed to refuse to finish the job until the power was shut off. The brick-laying job will last decades; it is OK to disrupt the power long enough to create a safe environment for the workers. Workers need to be taught that they must take control of their own safety at all times. But if employers know of a hazard, they must not send their employees into it. Graveyards are full of people who thought they were faster, or more careful, or smart enough to overcome whatever hazard was present. It takes all of us to truly create a safe world for everyone.

  22. The article states: “The newspaper was aware of these conditions. [It] should have prevented the reporters from using the stairs and the press box until they were corrected,” Dube said.” I wonder, if there had been any evidence that the reporter’s career could have been negatively affected by refusing to cover the game, would all of you still feel the same?

  23. Marie asked: “Could OSHA have fined the school for the stairs…?”

    Absolutely – in a “multi-employer workplace” (which this obviously was) the exposing, creating, controlling and correcting employers can all be cited. It’s a mystery why OSHA did not cite the school.

  24. I believe OSHA does a lot of good for those of us facing obscure safety issues, that many of us don’t recognize because we’re not trained to. Being in the construction business, I’m required to adhere to their requirents. The safety standards set forth by OSHA and the Corp of Engineers are the construction standards. The circumstances and results described in this instance, in my opinion, exceed the limits of accountability established by OSHA. It appears they’re going to punish someone and the paper was the weak link in the chain. I doubt OSHA wanted to explain why they were placing a fine on an Educational Institute of learning. It’s a much easier burden for OSHA to require the paper to explain why they’re not responsible than it is to ask the school to explain why they are. They’re out of line on this one.

  25. Chris is on point with his statement about OSHA fining the school. Politics and “backdoor” dealings are everywhere and OSHA is not exempt form those tactics. I do find this alarming, but am really not too surprised by their actions. They are primarily a reactive agency and do very little in prevention of injuries. Okay, maybe that was a bit too harsh, but I liken them to a traffic cop (Sorry to all of the officers for placing you in the same bag…I promise to pull you out as soon as I am through with this analogy). They cite for something that happened, or for something that they witness on a property through an inspection. All reactive and all too frequently offer zero in methods of preventing accidents in the first place.

    Some may say that without their enforcement arm, things could get a lot worse, and you would be correct. However, things could get even better if more emphasis were placed in being a helping hand versus the hot iron.

    Unfortunately for all of us, things will only continue to worsen. OSHA only knows how to point the finger……Oh dang….okay now I am really sorry to the officers as I have a better analogy (ADHD kicks in again) OSHA reminds me of Alex Trebek (of Jeopardy). Always quick to point out the answers (you should have known), as if he knew them. And if you didn’t….guess what… lose. Thank goodness for those blue index cards.

  26. I agree with all the above. The paper is responsible for the workers’ comp claim of their employee. To answer Marie’s question, they would definitely be able to pursue a subro claim against the school for cost of the workers’ comp claim, although I am not sure if they could subrogate the cost of OSHA citation. I sure hope they appeal though.

    To the point of OSHA’s conduct: I am the risk manager for a temporary staffing company and I am troubled by their decision to cite the newspaper. If this scenario were to become the norm, every time we have an employee injured at a client location we could be cited for any related safety violation because we sent our employee to work there.

    We do our best to screen our client locations prior to placing employees there, but to think we could be cited for violations we have no knowledge of or authority to correct is frightening.

  27. The employer is responsible to train and inform employees of the hazards of performing their job duties. At least, the newspaper should have provided broad scope training for the employee (OHSA 30 hour or more) based on the varied circumstances the employee may be exposed. A culture of safety does not intrinsically exist, it must be cultivated. Employees often just go and do what they are told because they want to keep their job. We are human an tend to take the shortest route from A-B even though it is not the safest. Common sense is not common at all. The movie Idiocracy has a great deal of merit when it comes to common sense. The employer has an responsibility to protect its employees from harm.

  28. Hopefully the Paper will appeal the citations.

  29. In my 32 years as a safety professional this is the dumbest thing I ever heard. I agree that rules and regulations must be made but lets sue the cintractor and or architect who built this place with out following OSHA regs.

  30. I over heard I guy saying OSHA fined him because an 8 ft step ladder was leaning against a wall not being used.
    How can this be!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Typical Government bureacratic mentality, go for the deep pockets rather that who is calpable, the school district and the contractor that installed it!

  32. Yes, this is a bad decision; yes, it sets a bad precedent.
    It will undoubtedly be overturned on appeal. (the newspaper is appealing, right?) Too bad the newspaper has to defend itself against a poor decision, but they do happen.
    However, as a school administrator, I am appalled that these conditions existed. And if the newspaper was ever made aware that the reporter was running a survival course to do his job, then there is blame to go around.
    Sad story.

  33. Anonymous S says:

    Sounds like Mayor Bloomberg is running OSHA too.
    OSHA is wrong on this one and will lose in Court or the process leading up to that point.

    OSHA does a lot of great things but lately they are starting to cross the line with some of these unusual and insane violations.

    This violation has many scary consequences-including the final end to a so called free press. No more war reporters, no more storm reporters, no more tragic accidents or incident coverages etc.

    This is a terrible tragedy for the family and my prayers go out to them.

  34. This type of fine is typical government BS. The inspectors and managers at OSHA are trying to justify their jobs at the expense of the employer. There is no common sense used here at all. I’m sorry for the family’s loss and the school system should be totally to blame!

  35. Read the General Duty Clause 5(b) regarding employee responsibilities under the ACT. Then read the letter of interpretation dated 10-05-1990. This is why OSHA needds the tools from Congress to enforce the 5(b) standard on employees and not employers. It has been in the books since 1990. The citations will be upheld. SORRY!

  36. Oh dear. Now for another opinion. What is OSHA to do? Their jurisdiction only allows them to pursue the employer. If they had done nothing, this man’s death would have gone without any action whatever. In fact we wouldn’t even be writing about it because his death would have slipped into obscurity already.

    And as the union Safety Officer for people who work on film and TV locations, OSHA is damn right that it is the employer’s job to ensure that their field workers understand the potential hazards on the job and when to refuse to use an improper ladder, catwalk, scaffold, etc. I also offer basic training to our union workers about hazards like this to help them recognize them, even though they are not construction workers.

    And I hope the widow sues the sox off the school. I inspect schools and colleges regularly, and they are commonly in non compliance with all kinds of safety regulations. Working there should involve hazard pay!!!!

  37. I have heard of bad citations by OSHA before most of the time they are honest and reasonable however I’m curious how the new administration will respond and enforce policy.

    If anything the policies need to change in favor of the employer AND the employee, not in favor of the government.

    Employers who follow regulations voluntarily are looking out for employees. They also realize the importance of compliance to continue operations, providing a workplace and safe jobs for employees.

    Employees who are commited to safety are being penalized. The employees are commited to thier employers and the safety and health of others but this is crushed when Employers are Cited for ridiculous violations or appearance of violations, or penalized for proper recording of even minor injuries by insurance and clients.

  38. Let’s just wrap the world in marshmallows and bubble wrap while we continue to perpetuate our completely blameless, litigious society. Oh yeah, and more rules/regulations. How would we ever get by without more of those?

  39. How about this, if an OSHA compliance officer slips on some ice in the winter when they are conducting an inspection should “OSHA” cite themselves? HUMM???

  40. Safety Guy says:

    This is clearly a fine that will lose in court, it is just a shame that the deciding investigators did not have common sense on this one and are going to drag this one out hoping to scare companies so they can bolster their own position in federal government- When looking at all the places workers are sent to throughout the world there is no feasible or cost efficient way for a company or entity to inspect all areas and be held accountable for these sites poor safety practices- Common sense has to apply in these situations….”If you see a hazard then don’t put yourself in danger”- The school obviously has known about this situation and has taken little to no action to correct it even after the death- this is a clear cut case of negligence and complacency on the schools part.

    Someone needs to wake up on this one and say enough is enough- Apparently someone promoted the wrong decision maker to decide these things!-

  41. Out of couriosity I looked up “Buffalo’s All High Stadim” and found an article on a soccer tournament held there last summer. Believe it or not – it was recently renovated (see quote below). This being the case there should be law suits flying around for years as no-one looked at codes during the re-model to upgrade the access to the press box. Of course 80 years ago OSHA wasn’t around and the codes were most likely different but when renovations are being done everything should be brought to code.

    “After years of budget induced neglect, the Stadium has undergone a multi-million dollar transformation that has returned it back to its glory days of 80 years ago when it was one of the nation’s premier sports complexes.”

  42. Harry, What are you talking about? That has nothing to do with this tragedy.

  43. To RP:
    “If the reporter had informed the newspaper that the press box was unsafe and was ordered to enter it anyway, then the newspaper could be at fault.”

    I think you got it right. The article states the following:
    “The newspaper was aware of these conditions. [It] should have prevented the reporters from using the stairs and the press box until they were corrected,” Dube said. It doesn’t say HOW they became aware or that they knew the risk associated with these conditions.

    To Larry:
    “I wonder, if there had been any evidence that the reporter’s career could have been negatively affected by refusing to cover the game, would all of you still feel the same?”

    You make an excellent point here as well.

    Safety is NOT by accident. Administrators and managers need to establish a safety culture and promote safe practices, which includes communicating to staff that they are not to take unneccesary risks and report safety hazards promptly. Reporters, I have found, are oftentimes risk junkies. Getting them to “play it safe” is like herding cats, but they are one group that needs to have it emphasized that unnecessary risks are NOT acceptable. If the newspaper, or other organization that sends its employees to remote locations fails to promote this safety culture through training and newletters, then they DO have some responsibility.

    This case is not wrong because the employer was fined. It is wrong because the school system was not fined MORE.

  44. Chris Schram says:

    After reading the letter of interpretation stated earlier, I have changed my opinion of the fine. With that said…at least cite the school too! Really employees dont get fined from OSHA even if the employer had no idea of the hazard. Technincally all employees need to be trained for hazard recognition. If the employee does not have the mental capability to do so, as an employer we need to re-evalute the need of that employee and make sure they are worth the risk. Then again as safety professionals we are supposed to eliminate risk.

  45. Jon Beuschlein says:

    I think OSHA needed to fine someone for this incident and could not fine the school. OSHA doesn’t have jurisdiction over the school. The school is the political subdivision of a state and therefore is exempt from OSHA regulation. The article states that the State has issued citations. New York has it’s own OSHA program for public entities and is the agency to issue citations. Whether or not the citation to the newspaper holds up under appeal is another question.

    Ultimately the cause of the incident, the access way, will be corrected by the school district. Unfortunately it cost someone their life to get it fixed.

  46. Why didn’t OSHA site the school? OSHA does not have jurisdiction over state supported schools. The State Board of Education has that jurisdiction.

  47. Now it looks like employers need to be looking at areas where their employees work. FYI: OSHA cannot issue citations to the school since publicly held entities (local, state, federal including Congress) are not covered by the OSH Act. Under the Bush administration, the postal service and several federal agencies were required to institute health and safety programs – but not all. Isn’t it like the government to exclude itself from regulations?

  48. It is tragic and it can be said that OSHA is over the top on this one, but how many times have you heard from office employees and other desk jokeys that safety does not apply here.

    Remember that in some cases, managers/supervisors do know the risks involved with a job and fail to communicate to the employee because safety takes a back seat to schedule.

    I could hear management stating “he is a reporter and not facing harsh chemicals, machinery, etc…so what is the big deal. I do not agree with OSHA reaching out this far, but there is always a first time.

  49. Tim Ashman says:

    FIRST, The news reporter should have voiced his concern about un-safe conditions. SECOND, the activities director of the school is in charge of all school activities and the equipment, this problem should have been fixed prior to the usage of the box.

    I work in the farm industry, just because employees are not at the facility does not mean that the company’s is not responsible for that employee. OSHA says that the working environment needs to be safe for everyone it doesn’t care if that’s in a small Nebraska town of 500 or Yankee stadium. If employees have been trained to identify safety hazards and have voiced said hazard to a supervisor then that person does not need to be there until the hazard has been fixed.

  50. Everone has made some very good points. My question is, has the local OSHA ever responded to the location for past issues, and if so, they may have missed the Hazard themselves? Basis for an appeal.

  51. N. Ginnett says:

    So, now we see the direction that OSHA is going. Beware all businesses regardless of your size, OSHA is on it’s way to ruin your bottom line. This is so obviously beyond the pale that it’s not even funny.

    I hope that everyone knows that becuase the school district is considered part of the state government that they are not covered by the federal OSHA. Just one of the many hypocrisies of our government. They will go to great lengths to ensure that businesses are encumbered with all kinds of red tape but they won’t live up to the same standards.

    If the state has their own OSHA and if they have decided to cover government installations, then some action can be taken against them. As it sounds from the article, the state government has just given the district an order to fix it. That means that they will “look” at it.

  52. very few workers believe Osha is there to protect us , rather it is simply a tax gathering machine operated by a government out of control.

  53. All government agencies are going to explode in size with the current administration and Congress. You better be ready for these sorts of issues. They are going to be flexing their muscles and teaching everyone a lesson. That aside, so many mistakes were made here and, someone is dead. Obviously, the reporter should not have used the stairs, they were unsafe. The school should have fixed them. How many children have been exposed. The newspaper should have created an environment where the employee would have been very aware of the safety concern and not accessed the box via the stairs. All employers need to make creating a positive safety environment their number one goal.

  54. Interesting…. OSHA is basing this on the Hazardous Communication Guidelines. Bottom Line OSHA is making the business accountable for Hazardous Communication and Recognition.

  55. Here’s a recent editorial with Buffalo News’ viewpoint.

  56. glongcih says:

    The statement previous to the question of “What do you think?” is germane to this discussion. There are many sales people that travel for their jobs. As such they could be subject to dangerous intersections (that are already recognized), violence in the workplace, (shot while eating at a fast food restaurant), or any number of other places that are recognized as dangerous.
    By extension of this concept, employers could be hit with penalties for things that happen in the “workplace” over which they have absolutely no control.
    Just think of it as your tax dollars at work.


  57. Tony Duran says:

    Unfortunately, having the employer be held responsible for accidents off-site is nothing new. OSHA rules (at least in California) clearly state that the employer’s work site extends to any location where an employee is required to perform his/her duties.

    This is nothing new for the fire service where our “work site” is anywhere a 9-1-1 call lands us. It is still the employer’s responsibility to identify potential hazards and make efforts to mitigate those hazards through administrative controls, engineering controls or PPE.

    Those who think this is an “open-and-shut” appeal may be shockingly surprised at the outcome. I would recommend the employer appeal the citation(s), then meet with the District Manager to hopefully reduce the fines imposed or go to court – they may succeed. It will be an interesting case to follow.

  58. The stadium was built in 1926 – you mean to tell me that OSHA never did an inspection in 83 years?!?! Or, did they, but never noticed this “accident waiting to happen”? Come on; I find it hard to believe. Someone’s not doing their job!!!
    Also, how can you not put the blame on the school system AND the newspaper, since they were aware of the unsafe working conditions and didn’t prevent their reporters from using the stairs and the pressbox!!! Just when I thought that I’ve seen everything…………..

  59. I realize that this concerns many of you, but you’re not seeing the full scope. An employer is not just responsibile for his office location only. Consider construction crews. They are on “location” and are subject to existing site conditions. A steel erection crew may arrive on site to erect a building but the site conditions may be unsafe for their lifts or cranes, etc. It is the employing company’s responsibility to make sure all accessible areas of the site are safe – regardless if it is caused by them, another contractor, the site owner or not. That’s why “safe” construction companies will perform a site analysis to identify potential hazards before construction begins.

    This reporter’s company has required him to work “on location”. It would not be appropriate to force him to do his job regardless of the conditions. What if they asked him to get an aerial photo by climbing the stadium lights without telling him of potential dangers, how to assess a safe climb, and the need for a safety harness. If he fell and died, then I don’t think you would be arguing whether or not his company is responsible.

    OSHA standards for stair access are standard and commonplace and there is no reason for anyone to be out of compliance. NO Doubt, the facility owners should be liable. But here are some questions that an OSHA investigation would reveal by surveying other reporters: what are the procedures for assessing a safe work environment? what are the procedures for reporting an unsafe working condition? how often does you company review safety procedures with you? hold safety meetings? what records are available regarding safety conditions at work locations?

    Chances are they found: none, none, rarely, rarely, and not available. Then does the newspaper able to state that they actively took reasonable steps to ensure that their employees were in a safe environment. If they had records, if they had training and THEN an employee does not report conditions and does not follow protocol, then the company did take reasonable actions to prevent injury. A fine like that generally indicates the company did absolutely nothing to prevent injury while on location.

    And perhaps they didn’t know. But the law says it is their responsibility TO know.

  60. Wayne From Maine says:

    The hazard had to be “recognized” as a hazard for any entity to take corrective action. It sounds like this may not have been the case. It was an accepted practice to enter the box in the manner discribed. To fine the employer is beyond my understanding. Who had the control and ability to fix the hazard. Where were the insurance inspectors? When was the stadium last inspected? I regret the waste of this man’s life. He used the only access means available. Why would he question it? The school should be held accountable for the existance of the hazard.

  61. The setting reminded me of many of the places we visited in Europe, narrow, steep, irregular & broken steps & stairs, no rails and numerous other “OSHA type violations” The basic rule there is if you aren’t comfortable with the environment don’t use it.

    People need to think and take responsibility for their own safety!

  62. Total B*S*

  63. To George:

    Thanks for the link. The newspaper editorial is definitely self serving. The company is in denial on what it should do to protect its workers. Not once did it mention that it trained its employees to not take unnecessary risks or took any effort to get the school system to comply with safety code when it became aware.

    They liken this tragedy with the actions of a firefighter going into a burning building, except the reporter didn’t need to climb the ladder to report on the game, where a firefighter sometimes has to enter a building to fight the fire and save lives.

    If a company can show that they have safety policies and communicate them to their staff and encourage them to report safety issues, then they have a defense to an OSHA fine. If a company remains silent when safety concerns are made and employees are not discouraged from taking unnecessary risks, then the company will have to pay.

  64. When OSHA says, “The newspaper was aware of these conditions. [It] should have prevented the reporters from using the stairs and the press box until they were corrected,” they open the door to the DA filing criminal charges against the newspaper and the decedent’s supervisors for Serious and Willful Negligence. The DA would simply have to prove the employer had knowledge that a hazard existed, injury was likely if corrective actions were not taken, and injury or death did occur. If convicted, the company and supervisor/s of the decedent could face jail time, criminal fines, and restitution costs that could push into the 7 figure range. Yes, the supervisor can be held personally liable in the criminal courts.

    It gets worse: The decedents survivors can file a claim for a Serious and Willful (S&W) judgment in the worker’s comp system for up to 1 year from the date of the accident. A cunning lawyer will wait until the 364th day to file the claim so the employer cannot file an S&W claim against the employee. An S&W finding against the employer gives the decedent’s family an increase in benefits of up to 50%. An S&W finding against the employee can result in a decrease in benefits of up to 50%.

    It get’s worse: If the #$%& does hit the fan as outlined above, the employer’s insurance providers will abandon him like rats jumping from a sinking ship. Indeed, it is illegal for worker’s comp carriers to provide S&W benefits, and they will likely not even cover the defense of an S&W claim. GL insurance will not cover it either. Nor will it cover the DA’s criminal charges. Legal fees will stack up quickly as the employer has 3 different law firms independently defending him at costs that will blow the OSHA fine out of the water! It’s almost like having no insurance at all.

    This is not a chicken little scenario. This exact thing happened to my company as a result of an accident that involved my employees that stayed “clocked in” when they snuck off work premises to help a neighbor during company time, against company direction, and an accident occurred resulting in the death of an employee. The employee took some serious risks while trying to hurry and paid with his life. Now we await our criminal trial, as does the decedent’s supervisor/best friend that was helping him when the accident occurred.

    I suggest the newspaper appeal the OSHA ruling, they file an S&W claim against the decedent to counteract potential S&W claims against the employer, and get a some good attorneys. It is common and understandable to want to let the family maximize the benefits that relevant insurance provides, but in the next year OSHA will mount it’s criminal case, and blood sucking lawyers will convince the family they deserve tons of money form the evil employer. This case could explode into a much bigger and uglier monster. The decedent’s family has a plethora of advocates. The newspaper needs to protect itself because its only advocates will be the very expensive ones that promise nothing except a bill for $300 per hour for their time!

    I sound like a grumpy, cynical old man and I’m only in my mid 30’s!

    It’s pretty hard to keep from becoming a criminal while I employ 30 people!

    What a tragedy…


  65. I can’t believe what I just read! I think OSHA should be brought down a notch. This ruleing set a precedent that this country cannot afford. Whats next we fine employers when someone get into a car accedent because we all know that the highways are not safe. OSHA your not only out of line with this one but now you also lost a lot of my respect for what you do and who you were. Just in case you forgot you were formed to help employers make a better workplace for employees. now with your reputation most people don’t even want you in there shops. Its well known that when you show up you must be running low on money in your branch.

  66. BFSafetyGuy says:

    The plan to update the press box area was left off the recent multi-million dollar stadium renovations due to budget limitations. The stairs/ladder were taped off after the accident but were reopened a few days later for coverage of playoff games. The conditions still exist, however OSHA considers the issue abated because the newspaper does not allow reporters in the press box. What a load! Maybe the newspaper gave some bad press to OSHA and this is there response?

  67. D w/CP Indy says:

    Shouldn’t OSHA be held responsible? The stairs were a problem and should have been sited before the accident. Didn’t the local inspector in the area do his job correctly? Let’s think about that…NO
    I bet that if we given the age of the school it would be over 20 years old. Yet OSHA didn’t pick up on this before? What about the maintenance staff? Is the Chief Engineer on record about the safety issue?
    If they are going to pass blame start with the architect that designed it, then go after the contractor who built it. Let’s go even further and hit the steel company that provided the metal for the stairs.
    Just what we need more frivolous lawsuits, and this one brought on by a government agency!


  68. If I have a car wreck on the way to work I guess OSHA will fine my company !!!

  69. Sorry for the accident. Sincerely the result of the tragedie in any circunstancies, could be happen to anyone, no matter who use the stairs or going up there; how many times some one went there and nothing happens? Always is the first time, but the problem is not the newspaper or the workplace to send it the employee to do the task or the job. I sincerely complaint against the insurance company covered the stadium premisses, who is in charge of minimize accidents and injuries to insured the whole complex…only the building? or shall be leiable for personal injuries! QC inspector for the company, suppose to see the problems before insured the building. I think they need training if they work for insurance companies…besides, is personal injuries happen to anyone, but what about electric fire? what about anything else? Sometimes OSHA take the blame to enforce regulations, but did you think more before this happens…PREVENTING INJURIES IS EVERYBODY BUSSINES.

  70. Finally… I only hope that Police departments will follow the suite and educate their employees not to get involved in high speed chase with me as it’s going to constitute danger environment/behavior for their employees…. cool 🙂
    C’mon people… “It takes all of us to truly create a safe world for everyone.”
    This world never was and never will be a safe heaven, face it. All of you that leave in that bubble, nitpicking in desperate urge to find someone to blame – turn to yourself.

  71. John Cantrell says:

    OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Aberration)

  72. George Gensic says:

    Contractor’s viewpoint:
    At first I was shocked and disgusted at OSHA’s response to the tragedy. Then I thought about my own situation. I send my employees out on jobs where they have to climb and crawl around other people’s facilities to do their jobs. The burden of safety is on me to supply my employees with all the necessary safety equipment to climb whether the customer’s facility is OSHA complient or not. In this case my men would have been wearing safety belts, tie-offs, and hardhats.
    OSHA is not bound by tradition. Being a reporter means nothing in this arguement. He could have been the Orkin man. If an employee is sent to climb a roof it is the employer’s responsibility to keep him/her safe.
    I can’t belive I sided with OSHA on this one!

  73. Bill Walker says:

    When did OSHA become part of the EPA? Equally rediculous and beyond reason. I work for government and some of the things that we do are totally unjustifiable. The Newspaper should be exonerated and thankfully, it sounds like the reporters family has some common sense. More than I can say for OSHA.


  74. With over 30 yrs in the construction industry, this is absolutely the the most assinine thing I have ever read. OSHA being a needed evil has way overstepped their bounds. This must be protested by the news paper company. Talking about double taxation, this takes it to a few more dceimal points out.

  75. Bob Knouse says:

    We all know to contest every OSHA finding. At the hearing most, if not flagrant, are reduced or thrown out. We’d be interested in finding out the final decision upon the closing.

  76. TargetDriver says:

    • Your employee’s wife calls and tells you that his roof is leaking. You tell him to clock out and go home and fix it. He falls from the roof while replacing shingles. What, now your company gets sued because he would have been safer at work and you, as the employer, knew that roof repair is an inherently dangerous activity?

    • You ask your employee to mail a package on his way home in his private car. He has a wreck. So, on the grounds that delivering the package was work related, and your company did not provide defensive driving courses and all the ancillaries that fleet drivers need, sues your company?

    Maybe these are a stretch but stretching comes before the exercise.

  77. Target Driver … you and several others here (the one’s talking about OSHA fining a company for a vehicle accident on your way to work) – you are missing the point entirely.

    If you employee CLOCKS OUT, goes home and falls off his roof you are not liable. You didn’t send him there. You didn’t require him to do it. He did it on his own time. The reporter in question was ON THE JOB.

    Regarding your second concept (and enough with the second grade, “well, what if …” stuff. We’re talking about THIS situation, not every contorted option you can think of) – when your package delivering employee (or family) answers the accident investigation, how do they handle the question “was he on the job at the time?” If they say yes, then you are responsible. You see, you are either asking your employee to do YOUR work on THEIR time, in THEIR VEHICLE at THEIR risk and liability OR you are considering them ON THE JOB. If they are on the job, you – by default – accept expenses and risks associated with assigned task. And NO – you don’t need DOT safety training to substantiate yourself. The question is, did you take reasonable actions to ensure employee safety. Is there a difference between asking your employee ONCE vs EVERY DAY? I would think so! Asking your clerk to deliver a package to the PO because it’s on his way home is DIFFERENT than requiring a reporter to climb a staircase you know is not safe. (and by the way, if you didn’t know, you’re required to find out). There’s nothing different than the rules that apply to stairs and handrails that you require your office employees to climb vs the ones on location.

    If that’s something you can’t handle, than I highly recommend you do not require any employees to deliver your package. Call for pickup.

    Thanks to all of you who started in one direction and then realized “Hey. We send our guys on location and have to train our employees to recognize hazards.”

    Does OSHA need to be checked? Sure. All government organizations should. Do they overstep at time? Yep, that’s what appeal processes are all about. The newspaper has rights too. This fine is by no means final. It is the initial assessment. No is the chance for the newspaper to show that they have proof they care and take actions to prevent injury to employees who are on location.

  78. Colorado Safety says:

    OSHA has been growing in it’s efforts to obtain money and fine companies for completely stupid reasons; not stupid on the part of the company. This type of fine is exactly that. If I am sent on a work related issue and have a respiratory failure and die, will OSHA fine the my company because the air I breath is polluted and they knew this?

  79. My 2-cents worth
    All indication from the discription is that construction was complete and the school had taken owership . If it was still under construction then the contractor had a responsibility to baracade.

    I see the school being liable for a civil suit, and OSHA has a responsibility to fine the school for a unsafe hazard.

    I would further think that a multi-employer condition exsist.
    1. The school being owner would be the controling employer
    2. The paper is required by OSHA law to provide a safe work enviroment
    3. Employee should have used common sense about entering unsafe conditions, but for many reasons at times do unsafe things. Example: look at the BLM accident and injury stats.

    So: Both the school and paper has responsibility, with greater being on the school because of its control factor of the site.
    As for the employee, just training alone is not always sucsseful determination on the employees part also comes into play.

  80. Seriously people … do you lack that much in ability to reason? Just because you think it is absurd, doesn’t mean you can prove your point by taking it to the most absurd point. You can’t extrapolate here.

    If you KNOW that the air is polluted to the extent that respiratory failure due to exposure is likely to exist, then yes you are liable. I’m not sure where you live, but we dont’ have a lot of people around here collapsing due to breathing the outside air.

    BUT if you send someone into a confined space or a factory where high levels of pollutant are emitted, then yes you are responsible for saftey training, respirator fit tests, etc.

    Using the EXAMPLE AT HAND and not your ridiculous example … if the reporter elected to go up the stairs of the stadium and fell because there was a missing handrail – then this would be ridiculous. As it is, they were specifically instructed to enter a restricted area that has specific restrictions on movement. I would say that there is not a reporter or broadcaster that has any experience that doesn’t know exactly what it’s like to go up the submarine style staircase and try to open a hatch. But like the submarine and factories that use similar roof access – they have to be in compliance. PERIOD. If the newspaper knew they were not in compliance, then they are liable. If employees were educated in entering tight, restricted access staircases and the procedure to report unsafe conditions and the employee did it anyway – then there is not much liability, if any.

    In construction terminology, the newspaper company (with the reporter as its competent representative) is the “revealing contractor”. It is their DUTY to report those unsafe conditions to the “controlling contractor” – the one who has the primary responsibility. If you do not know what is SAFE or UNSAFE due to the lack of training – then you are NEGLIGENT. If you do know what is safe or unsafe and you do not instruct your employees on procedure, you are guilty of ENDANGERMENT. These are legal terms and not OSHA’s.

    Forget OSHA’s 31K fine. If the family opts to sue the newspaper, the bill will be a bit higher. You’re looking at least at wrongful death if not negligent homicide.

    How do I know? I’m a safety trainer for a company who SENDS EMPLOYEES ON LOCATION. I’m not afraid of OSHA. I’m afraid of LAWYERS. By covering my liability, I simultaneously meet OSHA’s requirements.

  81. Time to go to appeals court………this is a ridiculous ruling.

  82. To Carroll Pinkley:

    I think you summed it up fairly well. There were things everyone could have done to prevent injury or loss of life. The most glaring is that the school system allowed the structure to be used when it was clearly unsafe. The harder to see is that the employer has a responsibility to train their workers to not take unnecessary risks and must set up a culture to promote safety. Many disagree with this, not because it doesn’t make sense, but because they don’t do it and feel the government shouldn’t be able to tell them to do it.

    Earlier it was said that OSHA does not have jurisdiction over the school because it is a government entity. I know that OSHA has no control over truck trailers when attached to the truck (the DOT does). But once it is detached, it can fall under OSHA.

    If government agencies are NOT governed by OSHA, then how are they made safe for the general public? Who has jurisdiction for safety issues in government buildings and grounds? Is there another agency that should be investigating and fining the school?

    Most government buildings I’ve been to seem VERY safe. However, I don’t go behind the scenes to make sure that standards are met for all the safety concerns, I see that the place is clean and assume that it meets standards.

  83. I like the comment about newspapers reporting at war. What are the liabilities there. Does anyone really know the work conditions for the troops. There must be some hazards around??

  84. First and foremost, whomever designed the stadium is responsible for knowing the requirements on the building and if they don’t, then they have no business in the construction business. Secondly, the school (or any other company/business for that matter) is not going to know these requirements so how can it be held responsible. (That is why they pay the contractor!) Common sense tells most of us that if something appears to be risky not to chance it and if this reporter felt uncomfortable, then he should have refused the assignment. Further, the paper that he worked for should have contacted the school and requested that the stairs and doors be properly inspected and repaired so that their employees would be safe while their on assignment. I am surprised that the faculty of the school had not complained before.

  85. It’s wrong that our system holds employees 100% blameless for accidents they play a part in causing. Employees are not robots that can be programed to obey instructions exactly, but employers are treated as though that were the case.

    When we pay lip service to the mantra of, “Safety is everybody’s responsibility,” and make employers 100% liable for fines and penalties, we’re speaking with forked tongues, for when it comes to the cost of safety and accidents, employees universally receive a “get out of jail free card”!


  86. Hmmm…..I wonder how OSHA is going to like being fined when one of there compliance officers gets hurt at one of the job sites they visit?

  87. Jeremy You missed my point and that is that OSHA has gotten out of hand.

  88. Where were the city or county building inspectors,they should have done a final inspection before anyone was able to enter (or be on top of ) this building.

  89. Editor, you must be one of Satans followers for not allowing my opinion to be published.

  90. get thee behind me, editor

  91. Many people responding to this article blame OSHA for not citing the school. They need to understand that OSHA has no authority over public schools, and also that OSHA gets in to these things through the employer-employee relationship. It was a newspaper employee who was killed.

    As an employer, the newspaper has a responsibility to ensure that their employees are able to recognize hazards they may encounter in the field. There is nothing in the article to suggest that the reporter ever recognized a hazard, let alone told his employer about it.

    Yes it will be, always has been, hard for employers of people who work on other company’s sites to provide them with a safe and healthful workplace. That does not relieve them of the responsibility to do so. They may have to put more reliance on communications and training than they do in a workplace they control, where they can send in a specialist/expert to do the recognizing.

  92. It makes no sense that OSHA fines the newspaper rather than the school. What about the school’s employees? They were not at risk?

    When is OSHA going to fine the Wall Street Journal over the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl? Of course, OSHA would never fine Al Qaeda for Pearl’s murder or 9-11.

  93. Some of you guys are getting really ridiculous with the comments.. Lets use some common sense!

  94. My heartfelt sympathies to the family of Tom Borrelli. This is a tragedy that could have been prevented and hopefully will be prevented in the future. Villifying OSHA for bringing this much attention to a workplace fatality seems misplaced. There is an appeal process that the newspaper will follow and a fine will be levied. What needs to be focused on is abating the hazard currently in place – preventing a similar fatality from occuring. It sounds as if the press box continues to be used and if memory serves me correctly, there are likely students climbing up these stairs and through this hatchway. Who is protecting them? Where is the outrage from the community of parents realizing that their little Johnny or Suzie could slip and fall to their deaths?
    As Safety Professionals – we need to stop thumping our collective chests over the process of OSHA in this case. Send letters and e-mails to the school district indicating that thsi tragedy could hev ebeen prevented and why. Reading through this string of communication I am appalled by the lack of awareness on the reason OSHA exists. Unfortunatley there are many employers that would take advantage of employees and hurt, maim and kill them. OSHA provides MINIMUM health and safety standards. I, like Jeremey, am not afraid of OSHA. I work to achieve minimum compliance and then go above and beyond for the sake of employee health, safety and wellness. It benefits my employer, my clients, and my employees. I do fear the trial attorneys that will tear our businesses part with their insatiable greed and lack of foresight with the consequences of their actions. OSHA is getting a new leader, Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary. He comes from the same type of activist background as President Obama. He is pro-labor and is passionate about OHS in the workplace. With this appointment, perhaps we will all start to see positive changes within OSHA – it all depends on your perspective.

  95. Bill Walker says:

    Jeremy needs to extrapolate some common sense. I don’t care where you live OSHA is out of line and rediculous! Jeremies line of reasoning just re-inforces the tendency for OSHA to go beyond reason. The popular but old “common sense aint so common” fits this whole scenerio.

  96. Bill Walker …

    First of all this is my last post on the matter. I don’t typically try to go back and forth when logic is absent, but since I’ve been called out …

    Extrapolate, are you aware of this word? It’s to make a prediction based on connecting a series of data within a field of study and using that pattern to project what might occur if the pattern continues. The problem with using extrapolation on small data sets is that the full pattern may have not been fully realized.

    The point I was making … listen carefully … is that by saying that OSHA stating that the newspaper had knowledge, responsibility and opportunity to change the situation is the same as saying that OSHA can fine a company for having their employee breath air who subsequently dies of respiratory arrest. That’s just dumb. Whether you love or hate OSHA, agree or disagree, comparisons like that are ridiculous. It is trying to take what few facts are available and drawing a line beyond the study at hand and trying to “prove” the decision was inappropriate.

    Can OSHA at times be a bully. Yep. Do they sometimes go too far? Yep. Did they go too far here? Possibly. But to state that OSHA is just way off base and has no jurisdiction or no reason to suggest the newspaper had any responsibility is wrong. Is it 31,000$ worth of wrong, I don’t think so. But now they can debate and/or negotiate that amount through channels.

    My “line of reasoning” is the same one any lawyer is going to use.

    If you want a true “extrapolation of logic” based on your statement, then it would appear that you believe that OSHA is completely unnecessary, should be disbanded, and no employer should be subjected to investigation or accountability when one of their employees is killed on the job.

    If you accept that, than why are you even getting safety news alerts? If you don’t accept that, then obviously you believe that employers, at some debatable point, have responsibility when an employee is killed on the job on location.

    Now, how do you decide at what point is that employer responsible? How about whether or not they knew the danger existed? How about whether or not they educated their employees about possible dangers? Where do you draw the line? (that’s rhetorical by the way)

  97. This was a tragic accident and nobody wants anybody to die while they are working, but some common sense needs to prevail here. So now we must go to every site that our employees work on and do an accident assesment plan of every place our mechanics go and make sure each place is safe for them to work in? We have travelling mechanics that go to over 300 facilities and as the safety officer, I have to go in and make sure that they have hand rails in place and steps are not at a greater angle than 50 degrees and many other issues. I provide safety for our workplace for our employees and anyone that comes in the door as a visitor or such. If someone got hurt on our facility because we didn’t do something right, then yes, our heads should be on the chopping block.

    Now it sounds like, from what I am reading here, that I need to educate my people on what a hazard is, which we do to a certain degree, but I’m sure there are over a 1000 different hazards. So if they walk up a stairway that is not a minumum of 22 inches wide on someone elses property, they slip and fall and get hurt or killed, it becomes our problem? This is crazy. Don’t forget we will have to document everything, like we do now, but now we will have to show that they had “stair training” What’s next, they all need to be provided with a tape measure to measure each step or the angle??

    I realize OSHA has a job to do, but lets place blame where it lies, on the school or the place of business where our employees may be. Also common sense is needed and that involves everyone, not just the safety officers. If something is unsafe, you don’t do it, period! We do what we can do, however, as much as some people think we can , we can’t do it all.

  98. Renaye K says:

    In response to the comment left by Wm…..I give you ten thumbs up. You have brought the real issue to light. I also strive to meet minimum standards set by OSHA and try to be more stringent in our policies and regulations. But I also agree that I can only go so far in protecting my employees with OSHA standards and my own. Until the employee is also held responsible for their actions, the employer is still getting the “hard end of the ruler”. Safety is EVERYONE’S responsibility, and until the consequences are equally shared, OSHA will continue to go by their past precedences. It is up to us as the employer to write and call and be heard about how we feel on issues. So complaining on this website is not going to get you anywhere but heard by frustrated employers. If you feel that compelleling about the issues, do something!!

  99. J P Somes says:

    UNBELIEVABLE!!! The newspaper NEVER required the reporter to use the stairs OR the press box. It is cases like this that destroy the credibility of government agencies.

  100. christine duffy says:

    OSHA made a correct decision. An employer has a responsibility of making sure their employees are safe while on and off grounds while performing work duties. It is the responsibility of employers to know where their employees are working and take preventitive measures. News Reporters should be giving a sigh of relief. The next time their News Bureaus or Network Braas tell them to stand in the middle of a hurricane to report the weather or stand in place where the bombs are going off so people can see it first hand the reporter will know that there are protections in place and that the employer will be held responsible for putting their people in harms way. The same goes for any employer that does not make safety the number one priority of their employees.

  101. As an HR professional, a big part of my job is to minimize or mitigate risk to the agency. This means that we do much more than is required by law. We consider best practices and implement what we need.

    The biggest risk to an employer is having a severe accident where someone loses life or limb. It shakes confidence of employees, customers, and vendors, and leaves the organization open to lawsuits. In this situation, there are two entities who have some responsibility; the school and the newspaper. Being a governmental agency, the school doesn’t fall under OSHA and does not have the same risk when sued as the newspaper does.

    There are many who have posted that OSHA had NO RIGHT to fine the newspaper. Actually, the OSHA fine is a shot across the bow for all employers. The risk is not being fined by OSHA. The risk is being sued by an employee or visitor for loss of life and limb and having to defend your actions before a jury made up of people similar to the ones responding on this site. It costs a lot to defend against a lawsuit whether you are right or wrong. Publicity can cause further harm to the company or organization. Finally, if you lose, the company can be saddled with unsurmountable debt and sometimes insurance does not cover punitive damages (if the act was willful). These lawsuits are not CRIMINAL cases, but CIVIL cases. The jury is not determining if the employer followed the law and standards. They are determining if the employer has failed in any duty to its employees and has ANY responsibility they failed to meet (negligence) which resulted in the injury or death. There doesn’t have to be unanimous agreement and usually the determination is made on the preponderance of the evidence and NOT beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Safety doesn’t happen by accident. If the employer does not ACTIVELY communicate to its employees to report hazards and to not take uneccesary risks, then it will be seen as promoting a culture that tolerates safety, but if an employee has concerns and reports them, they could be out of a job. If an employee BELIEVES that is the case and the company does nothing to promote safety, then it that company is RIPE for a lawsuit.

  102. Unfortunatley there are many employers that would take advantage of employees and hurt, maim and kill them.

    Wm, can you give me one example of any employer who really and truly wants to hurt, maim and kill their employees?

    What an ignorant comment!

    The next time your employees get on an airplane, you better have someone on your safety staff conduct a thorough inspection of the aircraft, check the medical records and flight logs of the pilot and crew, otherwise your employee could get hurt or killed in the event of a crash.

    I guess OSHA would come back to the employer for that as well?

    We are doomed!!!!

  103. Does anyone truly believe that the employer knew the steps were unsafe and insisted this reporter risk his life by using them for a HS football game? Of course not. Also, I would suspect the reporter had covered games in the past at this facility and this was not his first time to use the steps.

    Business owners beware! You are under attack in this society where no one is accountable for their own actions. It’s a terrible tragedy that Mr. Borrelli died from his fall but, it was an accident. If he thought for a second he was entering an unsafe environment he should have stopped and not climbed the steps. All of the training and employer awareness in the world is worthless when the employee makes a CHOICE to proceed where there is potential for an accident. Unless the reporter told the newspaper the steps were unsafe and he didn’t feel comfortable climbing them without fall protection then the newspaper has no liability and this case will end favorably for them. Even if (as some of you mentioned) this reporter was threatened with possible termination for not covering the game he should have walked away and then he could have sued the newspaper if he lost his job by refusing to climb steps that are unsafe. He chose to climb them.

    It is impossible for employers to; train for every conceivable scenerio, visit and inspect every place a reporter could ever enter, and have control over others property and buildings.

    As others have stated in this message thread, the real culprit in this situation is the person/entity who designed and or built this structure. However, they are no more liable than the building inspector, OSHA, and the school district for allowing the steps to remain even though they were not within code.

    If OSHA’s true role is to ensure employee’s safety then these steps would be removed or blocked permanently TODAY and not sometime between now and July as the story indicates. I mean, a man died on these steps for crying out loud. Are you going to tell me children and faculty are not using these steps – authorized or not – even as we are discussing this? Come on! It’s about the money.

  104. All of these comments have merit but the underlying sound of them is blame. OSHA? The Newspaper? The Employee? Blame is mute at this point. It is responsibility. Who met the responsibility for their organization? OSHA? Was this hazardous condition reported to them by anyone? Not just the newspaper employee, but anyone else who used the stairs? If so, did OSHA meet their responsibility to inspect the situation and see that it was corrected? Did the Newspaper meet it’s responsibility? Was the employee correctly trained in recognizing hazardous conditions and instructed to report them immediately? Did the Newspaper knowingly send the reporter to this game and tell him to ignore those conditions and “get the story”? And the Reporter? Did he fill his responsibility by not putting himself in danger? Did he ignore the training he had and decide that “just this once” it will be okay? We all carry the responsibility to work safely. So therefore, we should all share the burden of blame.

    But hashing out the what if’s and who didn’t’s, we should focus our attention on correcting this so that it does not happen again. Write letters, make phone calls, and be heard about what is Not right with the OSHA fining system. Stand up to any organization, Not just your own, if it is forcing unfair laws. OSHA is not a dictatorship. It is an organization not unlike the one that you work for. You have the right to voice your opinions and rally to get things CHANGED. And you also have the right to place into your own policies and procedures to make the employee equally responsible for their actions. But that means that you too must be fair and just.

    While you are so riled up about this, please, just take one silent moment in the memory of this man; for the children who no longer have a father, for the woman who no longer has her husband, and family who has lost a loved one. And during that moment, while you have your eyes closed and are trying to picture these people, put yourself in his picture, your children in his, and your wife standing alone. Then open your eyes, and maybe you can see things clearer.

    Change can be done.

  105. Robin K. says:

    It would be nice to see someone actually get this: if you don’t know the regs, as safety professionals it is your PROFESSIONAL DUTY to learn them. For all of you who blame OSHA for not fining the school, see if you can finally comprehend this: PUBLIC WORKPLACES ARE NOT GOVERNED BY OSHA RULES, BUT ARE GOVERNED BY THE STATES IF THEY ARE REGULATED AT ALL! Some of the most dangerous workplaces I’ve visited as a consultant were run by the government (Federal, State, and Local). How many have a clue of the number of people who die working for the public sector?

    If I sound fed up, it is because I am. I can’t fathom the number of times in my career a presumptive safety professional, having never comprehended MINIMUM regulations, gives an opinion and then blames this or that for the result. OSHA regulations are there for a reason. They are what they are: good, bad or indifferent. If YOU don’t like them, YOU should work to change them – but remember, most of them were written based on an incident that happened at a human cost. For those who say there aren’t any employers who would allow employees to be hurt or killed, read the fatal facts files on the OSHA Website. Then take a look at the regulations.

    Rene K. said it best. A man is dead. It should not have happened. It was preventable.

  106. Larry Capello says:

    OSHA will soon be able to govern public local government agencies from what I understand and its about time.
    I am a safety director for a construction company and we now take a proactive approach in controlling losses after two men almost lost there lives and OSHA levied a fine to our company for lack of employee training and for not taking the necessary safe work procedures.
    You would think that workers would take the responsibility and follow safe work procedure, well the problem is our workers were not thinking about there own safety, because they were never trained by the employer so consequently they never recongnized or understood the job site dangers.
    We need more OSHA enforcement and education in the workplace , unfortunately most employers do not understand that we need safe production not just production. Read OSHA fatal facts and you will find out why we need OSHA and why we need quality safety & health programs in all companies not just construction activities.
    Employers must provide a safe work place for everyone and follow the three E’S of safey and that is Education, engineering and enforcement, The proper formula for providing a safe work place.

  107. Ronnie Holland says:

    Personnaly I feel that the city or county zoning and building inspectors should be fined not the newspaper. They are the one’s who allowed the building of an unsafe crossing. I mean a building permit should have been required. Then agin how often do you hear of another government agency being fined by OSHA. Just sock it to the hard working men and women who may take a occasional shortcu

  108. V Joslin says:

    After reading the many response to this and other postings by individuals who without training and experience in Occupational Safety wish to express their ire at agencies such as OSHA, I was at first considering changing or dropping my participation. After reconsidering; This is an educational opportunity, hopefully most have gotten the message the Federal OHSA does not regulate most govenmental agencies, the states do. The employer has the responsibility to ensure a safe work place for their employees. The armed services are required to meet the OSHA regulations as well, (I spent 20+ years in the Army & Army National Guard with responsibilities as a Company & Battalion Safety NCO). This is why training is so important. Before every mission training or actual a risk assessment is completed and provisions made to minimise the risk. unfortunately we have no way of knowing what assessments, training etc. was done by the employer. This is why it is important not make judgements until all facts are known. Thus the appeal process.

  109. Well said Robin K.!

    I agree with V Joslin that this is an educational opportunity since many responses seem to be venting frustration at a federal agency (OSHA) designed to protect the workforce.

    Wish we all lived and worked in a fairytale land where employers are the benevolent caretakers. We all need to be aware that bad things are happening to workers and continue to happen out in the real world.

    Check out these stories:

    Manslaughter Charge in Trench Collapse
    The owner of a Brooklyn construction site where a day laborer died in March when earth and debris collapsed on him was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday. In announcing the indictment, at a time in which construction-related deaths in New York are running far ahead of last year’s pace, the authorities said that more construction-related prosecutions may be ahead.

    Tyler Pipe (a dvision of McWane)
    “You put people at risk,” a former senior plant manager at Tyler Pipe said. “We did every day.”
    Which is why even now the toughest of Tyler Pipe veterans remember the day McWane came to town as the day they were, as one of them put it, “kicked into hell.”

    Agri-Processors, Postville, IA
    U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration logs reveal that there were five amputations along with dozens of other serious injuries to workers, including broken bones, eye injuries, and hearing loss. On March 20, 2008, the Iowa Occupational Health and Safety Agency cited AgriProcessors for 39 new health and safety violations and proposed fines totaling $180,000.

    Incidents and injuries do not just happen. They are caused through the failure of people, equipment, supplies and surroundings to behave or react as expected. Incidents indicate a failure by the management system of an organization which makes it very important to investigate the root cause of an incident.

    Why do the Root Cause Analysis:
    – Identify and correct root causes to prevent recurrence in order to reduce costs and increase profits
    – Identify trends in incident experience
    – Comply with standards and regulations
    – Satisfy public concern
    – Litigate incident claims

    There are companies with excellent safety cultures that have gone for years and millions of work hours without a lost-time injury. OSHA has recognized that regulatory compliance is only one factor in the implementation of a successful safety system. A strong correlation between the application of sound management practices in the operation of safety and health and a low incidence of injuries and illnesses. Where effective safety and health management is practiced, injury and illness rates are significantly less than rates at comparable work sites where safety and health management is weak or non-existent.

    The Lesson to be Learned: Management Leadership Drives Safety and Health and Employee Involvement; Work Site Analysis is Critical and done Daily; Hazard Prevention is Built into your Culture; Safety and Health Training is Expected for Every Aspect of Your Operation

  110. We had a similar situation which we contested and the citation was DELETED! OSHA Inspection #310226782. The Citation inspection date is 2-7-07; the issuance date is 7-31-07 and the DELETION letter is dated 10-5-07. It is a no-brainer that we CAN NOT live with this frivilous citations such as this. If more info is desired; feel free to contact us.

  111. Richard Freeman MD MPH says:

    As an Occuaptional Health Medical Director & Employee Health Physician for our local hospital I am very concerned about the implications of this ruling. We have Visiting Nurses that are exposed to hazardous conditions daily while making home visits in less than idea conditions. (i.e. one of our nurses was required to cross a stream in the icy winter using an old narrow swinging bridge to evaluate a premature newborn living in less than desirable conditions.) Should we now evaluate each home to see that they meet OSHA regulations prior to a visitation? Leave it to the bureaucrat who lives a fairyland to come up with these regulations.

  112. OSHA issued the citation to the person responsible for the reporter being at that location doing that job, the newspaper.
    OSHA has jurisdiction over the employer-employee relationship, only. The employer hires people for tasks, sends them out to work and is reponsible for their safety while they perform those tasks. Hazard recognition and enforcemnet of safety rules are important. If the stairs did not meet code requirements for safety, then the hazard was recognizable. That no one bothered to fix them doesn’t the change the fact it was a recognized hazard.
    Which is more expensive, supporting a paralyzed individual for the rest of their life instead of them being able to contribute to society as an able-bodied worker or fixing the stairs/access to the press box? It comes down to who has to pay. That is a liability issue, possibly a torte issue and is not OSHA’s job to sort out.
    I’m sure the school has custodial staff that are regularly exposed to the same hazard that unfortunate reporter was, but OSHA does not have jurisdiction over the school – they would certainly have issued them citations also.
    In the citation, OSHA deemed the employer was responsible to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. That’s their job. If someone is hired to do a task, in this country, that person is not disposable and has a right not to be exposed to recognized hazards at their workplace, wherever that may be. All the temporary workers who are hired as contractors – to keep employers from having to provide benefits – and work at a site different then their employer’s location, don’t they have a right to a safe workplace also?

  113. The employer can “fine” or penalize employees for safety violations. This establishes an expectation with employees that their safety and behavior matters. The employer is responsible for taking control of safety just like they would ensure attendance and product quality control at their work-site. Enforcing safety behavior of employees at the worksite is the employer’s responsibility, not OSHA’s job.
    If an employer has an excellent safety culture, enforces safety rules (as a non-discriminatory practice), and documents that enforcement, employer’s can successfully plead employee mis-conduct, an effective defense against an OSHA citation.

  114. TEXASBIGFOOT says:

    Absurd! I don’t believe this will hold up in court.

  115. safety engineer says:

    It may not hold up in court. But let’s set the outrage aside for a moment and look at it realistically.

    Having been an OSHA inspector in the past, I see this as an example of a very common situation: the inspector has a fatality to investigate, and there is an assumption since somebody died, someone was at fault. In OSHA’s perspective, this means someone is going to get cited, perhaps for some shaky alleged violation like this, as it’s a lot easier to cite than to explain why nobody is being cited for a fatal accident.

    OSHA always looks hard at the employer, but if there is another company that did not employ the decedent, but which perhaps created the hazard, that other company can be dragged in, as well. However, OSHA doesn’t have jurisdiction in NY over public agencies so they can’t cite the school.

    OSHA would see it this way: Since this press box was regularly used by the newspaper’s employees, the newspaper certainly had opportuniities to check out the working conditions its people were exposed to. What if the reporter had been sent to cover an unsafe explosives plant and was blown up? OSHA likely thinks the newspaper needs to be mindful of what it asks its employees to do and where it asks them to go to do their jobs.

    But isn’t it a tradition for reporters to go into risky areas to bring us news? Maybe a press box isn’t supposed to be risky, but certainly no normal newspaper is going to sit back and let OSHA intrude this deeply into the area of reporting without a fight.

    I think when taken out of the land of OSHA think and brought into the light, this citation will be reduced substantially or maybe even will be dropped in its entirety.

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