Egregious OSHA PPE violators: Yikes! That’s expensive

By: April 22nd, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

OSHA’s tactic of hitting flagrant violators of personal protective equipment (PPE) standards with multiple citations received support from the court last week.

An April 16 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld OSHA’s “authority to penalize employers on a per-instance basis in willful or egregious cases,” reports the Environmental Resource Center.

The parties to the decision were National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), et al. v. OSHA and Department of Labor and it concerned OSHA’s inspections of construction businesses that repeatedly violated the respiratory protection standard by not providing respirators or training workers on their safe use.

Instead of issuing one citation during an inspection, OSHA decided to issue separate violations and fines for each instance—in this case for each employee—in non-compliance, according to the report.

As you can imagine this could get very expensive. Suppose your healthcare facility had been previously warned about your not supplying workers with N95 respirators during the recent H1N1 pandemic, and during a follow-up inspection OSHA found that you had not taken measures to mitigate the hazard. OSHA could then issue a citation for every exposed worker without a respirator. How many might that be in your case—dozens, hundreds?

So far OSHA has applied this tactic only in the construction area and in only egregious instances, but changes to general industry standards through Clarification of Employers’ Duty to Provide Personal Protective Equipment and Train Each Employee means it could be exercised for standards commonly in place in healthcare facilities.

Is this a valid and much-needed increased enforcement measure, or is it overkill on the agency’s part? Let us know in the comment section below.


This is not overkill. I say, “Go for it- safety never takes a vacation”

Should not be able to be used with the General Duty Clause. Needs to apply to a specific standard. Use for healthcare over protection from infectious diseases would not be warranted as there is still a lot of controversy over what protection is needed.

By Margaret DeBacco on April 29th, 2010 at 10:55 am

What if an employee refuses to wear PPE even though was educated that it was important to wear?

By David LaHoda on April 29th, 2010 at 12:06 pm

It is still the employer’s responsibility to ensure compliance, but there are some things you can do to mitigate a violation.

This very question was covered in the December 2009 issue of Medical Environment Update that focused on how safety officers need a plan when confronting employees who ignore OSHA regulations.

I’ve just posted the sidebar from that issue: “Will OSHA let me off the hook for PPE violations due to non-compliant workers?”

By Jean Davis on May 14th, 2010 at 8:50 am

I think OSHA should issue fines/citation for each occurance. I also think OSHA should start doing unannounced walk-ons to facilities to see what is being taught in facilities and what are staff doing with that training if they receive any. There are many facilities that do not think their staff need OSHA training.



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