According to an article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution dated October 22, 2018, more employers could be emboldened to block federal workplace safety inspections after a court ruling involving a Georgia chicken plant where an inspector investigating a worker injury was told to put a box over her head to avoid seeing other hazards.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors responded to an accident in which a worker was seriously burned at a Mar-Jac Poultry plant in Gainesville. The company resisted when OSHA attempted to expand its inspection into other hazards at the processing plant.
An attorney for Mar-Jac told the inspector she would have to wear a box over her head to prevent her from seeing other hazards if she wanted to walk through the plant to examine tools in the injured worker’s locker.
The inspector refused to wear the box and wasn’t permitted to walk through the plant. The company, which had said it would cooperate with the accident investigation, later provided the tools for inspection.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month sided with the poultry plant and a lower court judge who had killed a warrant that would have allowed the broader inspections of Mar-Jac’s property. The 11th Circuit includes Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
The appeals court, which didn’t directly mention the box-on-the-head issue, said before OSHA could do broader inspections, the agency needed to have specific evidence supporting a reasonable suspicion of other violations.
The inspector had a Mar-Jac log of work-related injuries and illnesses, but the court said that did not necessarily mean the issues were caused by OSHA violations or justify issuance of a warrant for evidence of violations.
Unlike Mar-Jac, most employers allow OSHA inspectors to look for violations beyond those directly tied to ongoing accident reviews, according to attorneys.
“The appeals court’s ruling might lead more companies to resist those more sweeping inspections”, said Howard Mavity, an attorney who represents employers and chairs Atlanta-based Fisher Phillips’ workplace safety practice.
The ruling “is a game changer for managing inspections,” Mavity said. “Educated employers are going to take advantage of this.”
To read more on this article, please visit AJC-OSHA COURT CASE SHOWS LIMITS ON SAFETY INSPECTIONS.
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