OSHA Administrative Law Judge Vacates Trinity Penalties

An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has vacated penalties against Trinity Marine Products Inc. from inspections dating to 2015, saying regulators had failed to show that the company knew of the alleged violations, and failed to properly measure remedies to show they were feasible.

In October 2015, inspectors from OSHA inspected Trinity’s barge building facility in Ashland, Tenn., and issued citations alleging violations of safety standards and the other claiming employees were overexposed to certain pollutants. Trinity settled some of the complaints, but contested two and the accompanying $5,000 fine.

Administrative Law Judge Heather Joys ruled that while it imposed penalties, OSHA had failed to specify the amount of reduction of airborne contaminants it required. “While there is no ‘magic percentage of reduction’ required, it is still the [Health and Welfare] secretary’s burden to demonstrate a significant reduction would result [from the remedies]. Here, the secretary failed to address this element of his burden.”

She cited a ruling by the Sixth Circuit that said that in imposing remedies, OSHA must weigh costs against burdens. “Here, the secretary failed to conduct even a rudimentary analysis of the economic burden of the proposed engineering and administrative controls.” She said OSHA should have calculated such things as how much time and cost would be added to building a barge by the proposed remedies.

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Joy said that even if the agency had proven that the violations had occurred, she would still have vacated the ruling because it did not show that Trinity knew of the alleged violations, which Trinity claimed were done by individual employees without its knowledge.

“Trinity provides welders with respirators and requires the welders to use them. Trinity has a written respiratory protection program. Trinity’s action demonstrated it inspected the work area, anticipated hazards to which employees may be exposed, and took measures to prevent the exposure.”
The ruling can be found on OSHA’s website as dockets No. 16-0931 and 16-0932.