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The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission vacated or downgraded the severity classification of several citations issued to an Ohio solid waste facility and reduced assessed penalties by more than $200,000.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued three citations to Envision Waste Services L.L.C. following an inspection of its solid waste facility in Seville, Ohio, in December 2010, according to commission documents in Secretary of Labor v. Envision Waste Services L.L.C. published Wednesday.
The citations alleged 10 violations: six repeat-serious, three willful and one other-than-serious violation. An administrative law judge affirmed all but one citation item and assessed a total penalty of $224,000.
Most of the citation items concerned the work of employees in the facility’s sorting rooms through which mixed residential and commercial solid waste is transported by conveyors, according to commission documents. These employees, referred to as “sorters,” remove recyclable materials from the waste as it is conveyed through the rooms. At issue is whether Envision provided sorters with adequate protection for eyes and hands and training, as well as its alleged failure to make the company’s hazard exposure control plan accessible to employees and to provide respirator information to employees who voluntarily wear dust masks.
The commission affirmed six items of the citations, but downgraded the classification of two items from willful to serious and vacated the final two items, assessing penalties totaling $15,000.
The commission agreed with Envision that the regulators failed to establish the company had actual knowledge of a hazard requiring the use of eye protection.
“The secretary maintains that Envision knew sorters could be exposed to eye hazards from chemical splashes or flying debris,” the commission said in its ruling. “We find insufficient evidence of such exposure.”
Because the secretary failed to establish the company’s knowledge of an eye hazard requiring the use of personal protective equipment, that failure also required the vacating of a citation item alleging inadequate training on the use of prescription glasses as eye protection, according to the appeals court.
The appellate court also ruled that the judge erred by characterizing two of the violations as willful.
“On review, Envision does not claim it lacked a heightened awareness of the standards’ requirements, but it argues that the record does not show it possessed the state of mind necessary for willfulness,” the appellate court said in its ruling. “According to Envision, the judge ‘in his haste to find willfulness, could not find any evidence of clear intent to intentionally disregard the [t]raining requirements outside of the allegation that the [t]raining just did not occur.’ We agree that the record fails to establish Envision intentionally disregarded the requirements of the cited standards.”
An attorney for the company could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission denied a petition to review an order by one of its administrative law judges even though the commission agreed that the judge’s order was erroneous.