OSHA
employees working in the summer heat

Heat-Related Fatality Results in $6,900 OSHA Fine for Clarksburg, Md., Milling and Paving Company

Oct. 10, 2012
A hot June day, paving work and failing to train workers in the symptoms of heat stress or provide breaks and water resulted in death for a worker and an OSHA fine for his employers.

A worker who was part of a crew paving a parking lot of a church in the District of Columbia became ill from heat stress last June and was rushed to the hospital, where he died. OSHA investigated and has cited LH Musser & Sons Inc. in Clarksburg, Md., for one serious violation of OSHA’s general duty clause.

“This tragedy underscores the need for employers to ensure that workers have frequent access to water, rest and shade to prevent heat illness and injuries during the hot summer months, and also why it is important that workers are trained to recognize and respond to the signs of heat-related illness,” said Robert Szymanski, acting director of OSHA’s Baltimore/Washington Area Office.

The violation involves allegedly failing to provide a program addressing heat-related hazards in the workplace. In this case, the workplace was the outdoors, where employees performed duties involving hot asphalt in direct sunlight. According to OSHA, the employer did not maintain a work/rest regimen, train employees on recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses or methods of prevention or ensure that employees consumed adequate amounts of water. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company also was cited for one other-than-serious violation for allegedly failing to report the fatality to OSHA within 8 hours. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a curriculum to be used for workplace training. Additional information and resources on heat illness – including how to prevent it and what to do in case of an emergency – can be found on OSHA’s Web site. OSHA also has released a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. It can be downloaded in both English and Spanish.

The paving and milling company, which faces a proposed fine of $6,900, has 15 days from receipt of the citation and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with Szymanski or contest the finding before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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