OSHA official: “Fines are not our goal — our goal is safety and protection of the worker”
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently reviewing all new information provided by Paramount Builders Inc. and discussions have not been completed regarding any reduction of fines against the locally based construction company.
Paramount Builders was cited by OSHA for six serious, one willful and one repeat violation of workplace safety and health standards. The federal agency proposed fines totaling $107,910 and Paramount Builders owner, Papali’i Lauli’i Alofa told Samoa News on Tuesday he does not plan on challenging the fines or contesting the violation.
Papali’i also said that the company has addressed “most” of the violations.
When asked for an update on this case, OSHA’s Honolulu Area Office director Galen Blanton told Samoa News on Wednesday that OSHA is still reviewing information provided by Paramount Builders, adding that the employer is required to provide certain documents during this process, within 15-days from the time the company first receives the citation and proposed fines.
As to whether OSHA will reduce the fines, Blanton said that because the case is still open and under review, any final decision on the fines will be part of the negotiations involved in the case. Additionally, the fatal fall in May this year of a Paramount worker at Samoa Tuna Processors Inc. construction site — which prompted the OSHA inspection— was the first fatal accident for the company.
“We are discussing [with the employer] any details about this case that didn’t come up during our inspection,” Blanton said in a telephone interview from Honolulu. “And during the discussion, we look at what has been done differently going forward.”
He said that fines and penalties are not the most important aspect for OSHA, but rather, worker safety and protection is their goal.
“Our goal and aim is to make sure that workers are protected and that the employers provide safe and healthful workplaces and follow the law’s requirements and provisions for safety and health,” Blanton said. “While fines are necessary as a result of an enforcement action, the end result are not fines, penalties or citations. We are not in the business of fining or issuing citations.”
He continued, “Our goal is to ensure safety and health in the workplace and to enforce standards, provide training, offer educational resources, and provide assistance so that workers are protected anytime, anywhere.”
OSHA training for local employers was one of the issues raised by Paramount Builders owner Papali’i, who said this has not been available on island.
Blanton said OSHA is planning to do a “safety day” training in the territory sometime in June next year for about two or three days, covering a wide range of issues that come under its jurisdiction.
He said that they are also looking at a program with the American Samoa Community College, who approached him a few years ago about a health and safety curriculum which would thereafter issue a certificate to participants upon completion of training. However, he said, discussions will continue on that.
OSHA did say last week that for employers in American Samoa, OSHA has arranged for its publications and other materials to be available at ASCC, where the contact person is Michael Le’au, Dean of Trades and Technology Division (699-9155 ext. 369).
Meanwhile, there are three OSHA Training Institute Education Centers in the Pacific— all located in California:
• California State University of Dominguez Hills, College of Extended Education (www.csudh.edu/OSHA)
• Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (www.osha4you.com)
• University of California - San Diego (http://osha.ucsd.edu)