Victory Woodworks of Sparks, NV, recently victorious in defending itself against a "serious" OSHA violation involving a job-site table saw, is now preparing to sue the safety agency to recoup its more than $5,000 in defense costs.
Victory Woodworks is a full-service designer, manufacturer and installer of architectural woodwork and is a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute.
Theirs' is a cautionary tale, one that manufacturers of all sizes and stripes should pay heed. It's cautionary on at least two levels: one because of the dubious circumstances surrounding the OSHA citation and the other illustrating why companies have to be careful if OSHA offers them a plea bargain to reduce their fine. The former is the subject of this week's blog; the latter will be addressed next week.
OSHA Vs. Victory Woodworks
Victory Woodworks' citation was brought to my attention last August. Shortly after posting a blog titled, "Is Your Woodworking Plant OSHA Sate?," I received an e-mail from Victory Woodworks President Jim Elliker. Elliker's story served as the basis for a follow-up blog, "Overzealous OSHA Costs Custom Woodworker 'Time and Money."'
At that time Elliker requested anonymity, admitting that he was "scared to death," of having his comments potentially being read by OSHA. Now that his case has been dismissed by the Nevada OHSA Review Board, his non-lawyer representtaive told him not to worry about repercussions because the OSHA who pursued the case probably can "not be an madder than they already are."
Elliker provides great detail about how an OSHA inspector cited his company while working on a building project last year in the blog I cited and linked above. In summary, Victory was fined $2,380 for failing to have an "anti-restart switch" on its 10-inch table saw. In his testimony to the review board, the OSHA agent said the device was needed to prevent an automatic restart in the event of a power failure. Such a sudden start-up could pose a danger to the operator, the agent said, including the potential for the loss of a finger or limb.
Elliker said he and his colleagues had never heard of an anti-restart switch and assumed that having the saw plugged into a power source that included a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) was a sufficient safeguard. A representative of Bosch testified that neither he or representatives of other saw companies he contacted were aware of any rule requiring an anti-restart switch on a table saw.
Victory's lawyer argued that the OSHA inspector incorrectly applied an "outdated ANSI standard" as the basis for the citation. and that the "current ANSI Standard specifically excludes table saws."