In a recent speech, interim administrator Jordan Barab said her agency “is back in the business of standards and enforcement.” Recent activity at the Occupational Health and Safety Administration shows this isn’t just talk.
Example: Wal-Mart faces a $7,000 OSHA fine after a crowd of 2,000 excited shoppers trampled a worker to death at a Long Island, NY, store on the day after Thanksgiving.
Does OSHA have a standard on retail crowd control? No, and it doesn’t need one.
It used its General Duty Clause (GDC) to issue the fine.
The GDC requires employers to maintain safe workplaces, free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
OSHA called holiday shoppers a recognized hazard, saying previous experiences with day-after-Thanksgiving crowds should have tipped off Wal-Mart managers about potential dangers.
Some other examples of the newly aggressive OSHA:
- 37 days into the Obama administration, OSHA proposed more than $1.2 million in penalties against G.S. Robbins & Co. of East St. Louis, MO. It used a new regulation that allows fines to be multiplied by the number of employees affected by a violation.
- In another speech, Barab said the agency would work harder to give workers the “tools” they need to ensure their workplaces are safe. That’s a reference to OSHA’s efforts to get workers to turn in their own companies for alleged safety violations.