Asphalt Specialists Inc. was ordered to pay $953,916 in damages and reinstate three employees that were terminated for raising safety concerns with all pay, benefits, and rights after being directed to violate the U.S. Department of Transportation’s mandated hours of service for commercial truck drivers. Two of the employees were terminated from employment for repeatedly raising concerns to the company’s co-owner about exceeding hours of service when job assignments continuously failed to allow for the 10-hour rest period mandated by the Department of Transportation. At least twice, the crew was expected to work more than 27 hours straight. One employee refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, which could have potentially caused serious injury to the worker, co-workers, or the public.  A third driver was terminated from employment after raising concerns about vehicle maintenance and the number of hours they were expected to drive. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations. These employees may also file complaints with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. The Surface Transportation Assistance Act also covers private-sector drivers and other employees of commercial motor carriers. Companies covered by the STAA may not discharge their employees or retaliate against them for refusing to operate a vehicle because doing so would either violate a federal commercial motor vehicle rule related to safety, health or security, or because the employee had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to themselves or the public because of a vehicle’s safety or security condition. In another astonishing failure to provide a reasonably safe working environment, the production company for “Midnight Rider” film was cited $74,900, for willful and serious safety violations following worker fatality and injuries. Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed and eight other workers were injured while trying to escape an oncoming freight train during the filming of a scene on Feb. 20 for the movie “Midnight Rider,” a biopic based on the life of musician Gregg Allman. The production company knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle. OSHA initiated the inspection in response to the incident, which occurred during the filming of a scene on the tracks of the Doctortown train trestle in Georgia that spans the Altamaha River. While the crew was filming, a CSX Corp. train traveling on the tracks was observed heading toward them. Crew members immediately started exiting the tracks, trying to remove set pieces and get off the trestle. However, they were unable to outrun the oncoming train. Ms. Jones was killed and eight other crew members were injured by debris when the train hit a hospital bed being used as a set piece. The company was willfully at fault for its failure to develop a safety plan to prevent such hazards, including obtaining permission from the rail owner to use the tracks for filming.  A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious citation was issued for exposing workers to fall hazards while working on a train trestle that was not equipped with safety guardrails or other fall protection measures. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. Recommendations:
  1. Every employer must have an Injury Illness Prevention Program
  2. All IIPPs must be posted in a location reasonably accessible to all employees
  3. All employees must be properly trained in all aspects of safety
  4. All managers must be encouraged to ensure that all employees are properly trained and follow all company safety guidelines
  5. All employees (including management) who fail to file safety guidelines must be disciplined
  6. All training and supervision of safety policies and implementation must be documented
We hope you found this information of value. Please do not hesitate to contact Holman HR with any questions you may have.