The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has named 178 different employers as “severe violators” (SVEP) of work health and safety standards. The companies span various professions, but over half are in the construction field. OSHA defines severe violators as “recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law.” Familiar names such as Kraft Foods Global, Lucas Oil, and Sea World are on the list which can be seen in its entirety, in PDF form, HERE.
According to Dignity at Work getting the SVEP label is not an easy task. One must be impressively negligent and defiant:
First, a workplace has to be the subject of a federal or State OSHA inspection. In any given year, less than 1% of worksites will have a visit from a government safety inspector. Second, the employer has to receive citations with violations classified as “willful,” “repeat,” or “failure-to-abate” (W/R/FTA). The vast majority of violations, however, are classified as “serious,” with only about 4% in the W/R/FTA category.
OSHA has stated that 22% of inspections that led to a company being branded with the SVEP label happened after the company had a death on the worksite.
Of the 147 employers on the list, just 14 of them (9.5%) have been subject to at least one additional OSHA inspection, at the same or a different one of their workplaces. For example, following the September 2010 death of Andrew Dill, 20, in Morral, Ohio at Gavilon Grain, federal OSHA conducted six more inspections at other grain elevators owned by the same company. In total, the firm was cited for 46 safety and health violations with proposed penalties totaling $465,500. Likewise, after an inspection at the Cooper Tire & Rubber plant in Findlay, Ohio, where OSHA inspectors identified several violations including two classified as willful, the agency did a follow-up inspection at the company’s plant in Tupelo, MS. Safety inspectors identified 14 violations, including two willful, and proposed penalties of nearly $204,000.
More than half of the 147 employers with OSHA’s SVEP label operate in the construction industry. Given that OSHA conducts nearly 60% of its inspections at construction sites, it shouldn’t surprise us that the SVEP list is heavy with construction companies. Twenty-three of the employers on OSHA’s SVEP list are masonry contractors, 13 are involved in water and sewer line construction, and six in building poured concrete foundations. But the “severe violators” are not just in the construction industry. The OSHA list has employers involved in 78 different industries from commercial bakeries, metal stamping plants and sawmills, to Illinois meat processing plants, paper mills in New Hampshire and New York, and an Indiana boat builder.”
OSHA began its SVEP program last year to replace the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) which had been ridiculed for its lack of follow-up inspections on those companies originally labeled as “bad actors.” Under the new SVEP program, OSHA will conduct inspections at other worksites controlled by the same employer where similar hazards may be present.