Thursday, January 19, 2012

Market Basket Fine Shows Enforcement is the Only Relevant Safety Motivator

Right on the heels of my post on Monday about a study from the Rand Corporation concluding that safety plans are benign relative to improving safety, but that enforcement was the prime motivator, comes a story this morning about a significant safety enforcement action.

The U.S. Labor Department has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to compel Tewksbury, Mass.-based DeMoulas Super Markets, owner of 60 Market Basket stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, to correct safety problems and pay fines of $589,200.

In 2006, after being cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), DeMoulas agreed to complete job-hazard analyses in all of its stores but failed to do so.

The Labor Department's complaint alleges that employees at the stores were exposed – or were likely to be exposed – to hazards from unguarded, open-sided work and storage areas, including storage lofts, produce coolers and freezers.

Also alleged in the complaint is that the supermarket chain failed to protect workers in the produce, deli and bakery departments from laceration hazards from knives and other cutting instruments by not conducting an analysis of job hazards.

An employee was seriously injured in April 2011 when he fell 11 feet onto a concrete floor from an inadequately guarded storage mezzanine, and an employee at a Billerica, Mass., store was seriously injured under similar conditions in 2007 according to OSHA.

Between 2008 and 2011, employees at stores in Rindge and Concord, N.H., sustained at least 40 hand lacerations.

OSHA said the DeMoulas complaint is only the second such action taken by the Labor Department, which filed a complaint against the U.S. Postal Service in July 2010, seeking the correction of electrical safety violations at 350 post offices throughout the nation.

DeMoulas is contesting the FINES according to the OSHA press release, which is silent about any action DeMoulas is taking relative to correct the safety problems.

The point is that the super market chain/employer did not take seriously the agreement to complete job-hazard analyses.

It took enforcement action to get this employer to view workers safety in a serious manner. 

That's a sad statement as to this employer's commitment to doing business in the United States in a legal, ethical and morally conscionable way, and testament to the fact that labor enforcement departments on both the federal and state level need adequate funding in order to protect the working population of this nation.workers compensation, work comp, injured worker 

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