On opening day, OSHA showed the sports world that it knows how to throw a curveball.
As part of a national emphasis program targeting Major League Baseball, OSHA compliance officers launched a slew of safety inspections at ballparks across the country.
Before, during and after Monday’s slate of games, agency inspectors popped up in locker rooms, dugouts, batting cages, bullpens and other spots to scrutinize workplace safety practices – and in many cases doled out fines and citations for serious safety lapses.
“It’s way past time for America’s favorite pastime to get serious about safety and health hazards,” OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said. “Highly paid professional athletes have the same rights and protections that the rest of the workforce does.”
Trouble in Tiger Town
At Comerica Park in Detroit, an OSHA inspector ordered both teams to vacate their dugouts, explaining that the dugouts are permit-required confined spaces. The inspector issued $143,200 in fines for nine serious violations, most of which stemmed from the ballpark’s failure to develop and implement a confined-space entry program and provide confined-space training, warning signs and retrieval systems for the players.
Things got heated when the inspector repeatedly told Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, "You are NOT a competent person!"
“A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy, which makes monitoring workers’ activities in these spaces vital to their safety and health," said Don Morgansen, OSHA’s area director in Detroit. "OSHA is committed to protecting ballplayers on the job, especially when their employers fail to do so."
At Camden Yards in Baltimore, an OSHA inspector took a different tack, slapping the Orioles with $43,400 in fines for slip and trip hazards after observing sunflower seeds and Gatorade on the dugout floor. When the inspector told Orioles skipper Buck Showalter that the team has a right to an informal conference to discuss the citations, Showalter became enraged and launched into an expletive-filled tirade that prompted security to remove him from the stadium.
OSHA has placed Showalter and the promising Orioles in the agency’s severe-violator enforcement program.
“This OSHA inspector must not have been watching the same game as I was,” Showalter told reporters afterward. “The umpire wasn’t the only one who blew a call today. This isn’t over, I promise you that.”
OSHA: Parrot's Antics Won't Fly
At PNC Park in Pittsburgh, a compliance officer cited the Pirates for several willful violations after observing the Parrot dancing on the roof of the home team’s dugout. OSHA is proposing $67,200 in fines for failing to provide and ensure the use of fall protection such as guardrails and personal fall-arrest systems for the mascot and other stadium employees.
“The Parrot is one trip, slip or misstep away from a deadly or disabling fall,” said Marvin Flemler, OSHA’s area director in Pittsburgh. “Although his plush costume might have cushioned the fall, there is no excuse for a ballclub’s failure to supply and ensure the use of legally required safeguards that can prevent injuries and save lives. The entire organization should be ashamed.”
In all, OSHA inspectors issued 373 citations totaling $4.9 million in proposed fines at Major League ballparks. Among the highlights:
- At Miller Park in Milwaukee, an OSHA inspector halted the popular sausage race due to slip-and-trip hazards and food-handling concerns.
- OSHA ordered a Baltimore Orioles fan (pictured at right) to wear personal protective equipment while watching the team take part in batting practice. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
- After observing Cincinnati Reds mascot Mr. Redlegs driving a four-wheeler prior to Monday’s game against the Cardinals, an OSHA compliance officer cited the Reds for allowing an employee to operate a powered industrial truck without training or certification.
- At Citi Field in New York City, a compliance officer cited both teams for exposing players to struck-by hazards after Washington starter Stephen Strasburg grazed Mets rightfielder Curtis Granderson with a fastball.
- After observing the umpire dust off home plate with a small broom, an OSHA inspector in Oakland ordered ballpark personnel to station HEPA filters at home plate and halted the game until the umpires and catchers donned air-purifying respirators. The inspector issued 11 citations totaling $87,500 in penalties for safety and health violations, one of which was for exposing players and umpires to respirable dust on the baseball diamond.
“OSHA is committed to ensuring the safety of the players, managers, umpires, staff members and loveable mascots at our nation’s ballparks,” Michaels said. “When an umpire yells ‘safe!’, we want to make sure that he really means it.”
Editor's note: In case you haven't figured it out yet, it's April Fool's Day!