The bulk of the citations against Trade Fair Supermarkets in Astoria and Jackson Heights sections of Queens, New York allege repeated violations for blocked exits, unguarded vertical ban saws used in preparing meats, and inadequate safety information and training for hazardous cleaning chemicals, including bleach and liquid detergent. The company was cited for many repeat violations because other stores had similar violations four years ago.
This case is a marker for the agency’s increased emphasis on holding employers with multiple locations responsible for repeat violations when it cites similar violations at related workplaces. Prior to the Obama Administration, each of a company’s locations was treated separately. Under Obama, OSHA focused on treating multi-locations of a single employer as a single location.
Let this also be a reminder that OSHA generally looks back five years from the date of citation to determine whether the company has been cited for similar violations. Prior to the Obama Administration, OSHA looked back 3 years. The company here was cited for repeat violations since it had similar citations 4 years ago. No one yet knows whether Trump’s OSHA will reinstate a 3-year look back period of continue with Obama’s 5-year period.
OSHA’s repeat citations can cost a company up to $126,749 per violation. Saving a few hundred dollars from a small fine, only to be set up for a $125,000 fine a few years later, is not a good trade off. Through a smart settlement or litigation strategy, employers can get citation items withdrawn, problematic, cited standard, modified, or violation language re-written to eliminate or mitigate the risk of future repeat violations.
Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.