Heavy Duty Fines for Combustible Dust Violations

Five Texas gas processing plants took a hit when OSHA issued proposed fines in the thousands of dollars following a dust-related flash fire and in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for repeated violations in Illinois. Many facility managers in the food processing industry recognize that a simple solution to dangerous flash fires is to install pleated filters. Industrial filters offer a cost-effective option to upgrade from traditional bags and cages.

Not only will your business save money over the long haul when investing in safety equipment, but  will also most likely witness improved worker morale.

The “Cost” of Doing Nothing

OSHA fines, while some may consider steep, are not enough of a deterrent to enforce violations or citations. Most companies appeal the decision which can languish in the courts for years. Do businesses that fall outside compliance factor in the cost of doing “business as usual?”

Consider low worker morale and/or high employee turnover for starters. Employee hiring and training costs are one of those hidden expenses that managers outside of HR rarely think about. With a disgruntled workforce often comes outside pressure to unionize, which can lead to higher costs Consider the cost of work-related injuries and illnesses; your company’s health insurance rates will certainly increase when the insurer identifies your group as “high risk” for health-related problems due to combustible dust and other hazards.

So, in reality, the cost of doing nothing is quite high.

Capital Investment Reduces Cost Over Time

Protecting workers from the hazards of combustible dust and other workplace dangers need not be burdensome. First, there’s the “time value of money” to weigh, i.e. that any money you spend today is worth more than the same amount in the future.

This is a core principle for investing in capital improvements. Going beyond the actual cost of buying and installing safety equipment, next, you have the tax consequences of that investment. Depending on your accounting accrual method, your business could be writing off these deductions for years. (Please consult a CPA for professional advice.)

The Choice is Yours

$758,450 is the amount of an OSHA-assessed fine to a pet food production and packaging facility in Illinois in November 2011.

You do the math. You be the judge. What are the real costs of maintaining a healthy and safe work force?

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