Agency's heavy-handed tactics not appreciated
August 9, 2005
On May 10 Jerrold Dodd was not spinning a yarn about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The general manager and chief operating officer of a spinning company warned a congressional subcommittee about OSHA's aggressive action against his small company.
In early September 2004, a punch press operator for Dayton United Metal Spinners Inc. severed two fingertips while trying to set up the press when the machine was still turned on. The fingers were reattached, and the worker returned to light duty three months later. Meanwhile the operator's employer was experiencing extreme pain.
An OSHA investigator from the Cincinnati office showed up approximately a week after the accident to ask questions and coincidentally ran into the victim who happened to be visiting. In front of Dodd, an administrative assistant, and others, the injured worker admitted to the OSHA representative that his mistake led to the accident and that he was trained to do otherwise.
Despite the admittance of guilt, the OSHA investigator spent time with the injured party, notifying him of his rights, taking pictures, and speaking with other workers present at the time of the injury. Dodd told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety that the employee even signed an affidavit stating that the OSHA investigator advised him not to admit wrongdoing and that he had grounds for a major lawsuit.
Jerrold Dodd of Dayton United Metal Spinners Inc.
spoke before a Senate subcommittee to show his
support for legislation that aims to support small
businesses more in their dealings with OSHA.
Dayton was eventually hit with a $17,000 fine. Dodd admitted to spending $8,000 on legal fees to fight the fine and ultimately have it reduced to $3,500. He said he now expects his workers' compensation costs to jump from $15,000 a year to at least $45,000.
"All this expense is for something that an employee admitted was his fault. With the shrinking manufacturing work my company sees each year, this is all money that I can't afford to pay," he told the Senate subcommittee.
"Instead of understanding and help from OSHA, I got fined, thrown out of a group rating [for workers' compensation insurance], and possibly faced with closing my doors if the money keeps flowing out the door for the wrong reasons."
Dodd spoke before the subcommittee to show his support for legislation that aims to support small businesses more in their dealings with OSHA. For example, proposed OSHA reforms include exempting employers that hire outside safety consultants from OSHA fines and allowing small businesses to appeal their case to an independent court. The House of Representatives already has passed several reform bills, and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the chair of the committee that oversees OSHA issues, has pledged to develop an OSHA reform package that can pass the Senate, where previous reform bills have met their demise.
"All people like me ask of lawmakers like the ones on this subcommittee is to keep a perspective on what each new law and regulation means to people trying to make a living in the rest of the country," Dodd said. "For a long time there has been a company called Dayton United Metal Spinners, and we'd like to keep it that way for a long time to come. But when the government comes knocking on the door, like they did in my case, and only sees retribution and condemnation as its role in what amounted to a worker failing to do his job properly, then I just don't know what to think about the future."