When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration comes a knocking, probably best to let them in. One such company refused their inspectors time after time, and now they are being found in criminal contempt.
The Missouri Department of Health found that an employee of the Martin Foundry Co., Inc. had an elevated level of lead in his blood and they tipped off OSHA that they may want to check out the facility. Darrell Stone is the owner of the foundry which had previously received 7 citations for lead standard violations. After the original violations they told OSHA they were going to correct the problem and paid their fines. When Stone found out about the latest inspection plan from OSHA he told them he would not let them inspect the facility unless they told him the name of the employee who got the blood test. The inspector did not yield this information and returned a few weeks later where the inspector was again denied. Then they got a warrant.
Even with the warrant, the owner and several Compliance Professionals, Inc. representatives denied them from entering, and the inspector returned the same day with U.S. marshals and was still denied. Compliance Professionals Inc. is an independent safety consulting group. After the latest refusal the U.S. Departments of Labor and Justice held the owner, his company, and the three Compliance Professionals, Inc. representatives in contempt. The department says it is the first time a company has been found criminally contempt for refusing an OSHA inspection even after being served with a warrant. Stone and the representatives will have to pay costs to the department for $10,778, and both Stone and his foundry were fined $1,000 for failure to cooperate with the inspectors. The representatives from Compliance were fined $2,000 for willfully hindering an OSHA investigation and refusal to cooperate with the inspectors and the warrant.
When the inspectors were finally able to look at the site it was clear that there had been changes to the workplace though they are not sure the extent of all the changes. Inspectors may be able to interview employees about what the changes were. Stone later told inspectors that the high level of lead found in in an employee’s blood was actually from his own test because he handles shotgun shells on a regular basis. He says the department overreacted.
Though employees may refuse OSHA investigators to give them more time to scramble and get their facilities up to code, it’s probably not a good idea to do so. First of all, you should absolutely have your facilities up to safety standards in the first place so you don’t need to worry about failing inspections and putting your employees in danger. Besides that, it probably reflects poorly on your final report when you’ve denied the inspector time and time again since it looks like you’ve got something to hide.