Ironworkers, OSHA Agree: Change Penalty and Save Firm

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

After an Ironworker fell to his death OSHA, the contractor and the union agreed to a reduced penalty combined with an improved safety program.

After an ironworker fell to his death on the job in Boston in June 1995, OSHA cited the contractor for an "egregious" violation, the most serious one on the books, and proposed a penalty of $448,000. But such a fine would have put the company out of business and could have cost 30 union jobs. Saugus Construction Corporation, the steel erection contractor, netted $271,000 in 1995.

Instead, the union asked OSHA to reconsider the penalty and address a safer worksite for the workers. OSHA (the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the contractor agreed. The fine was cut to $200,000 and Saugus now has a major 5-year safety program. The company is spending about $90,000 yearly on employing an independent safety inspector and on equipment and training. While many OSHA fines are cut by half or more, this settlement ensured a full-scale fall-protection program.

Having a "monetary penalty is important," said Stephen Cooper, executive director, safety and health, for the ironworkers' union. "But safety and health improvement at the workplace comes first."

Cooper and others have asked OSHA to use a similar approach to other safety violations, if a contractor agrees.

Until Saugus was cited for "failing to provide fall protection," the company had never been cited by OSHA. Egregious violations — there were 6 in the US that year — are usually for multiple "willful" violations. And, compared with non-union firms, the Saugus fine looked out of line.