MBCR maintenance facility responds to safety violations
The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company this month entered negotiations with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to address health and safety violations recently cited against MBCR's Somerville maintenance facility.
OSHA charged Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR) with 22 "serious" independent offenses concerning workplace practices at the maintenance facility in East Somerville on Oct. 18, according to OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald. The citations earned MBCR a $130,800 fine.
The violations outlined by OSHA's Citation and Notification of Penalty included improper equipment of abrasive wheel grinders, employee exposure to electrical shock, electrocution and fire hazards and failure to rely on electrical protective equipment and insulated tools when necessary.
OSHA is an agency that enforces safety and health standards in workplaces in both the federal and private sectors.
The safety and health inspections of the Somerville facility, which began in April and concluded in October, were spurred by a complaint of safety hazards from one of the employees working at the branch, Fitzgerald said.
Three of OSHA's Compliance Safety and Health Officers conducted the on−site inspection, according to OSHA Area Director for Middlesex and Essex Counties Jeffrey Erskine.
"What the inspectors do in general during investigations is physically inspect the workplace and interview [its] workers and management," Fitzgerald said. "They will review records of documents as necessary and gather whatever information OSHA needs to make a decision."
He added that the series of unannounced inspections, which entailed multiple visits to the Somerville facility, included both safety and health inspections.
"Safety inspection focuses on conditions that could injure workers, and health inspection focuses on conditions that could make them ill," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald explained that the types of violations that a facility could possibly incur include willful, repeat and serious offenses. All of the citations the Somerville facility received were categorized as "serious."
"A serious violation can carry a fine as high as $7,000 per violation," Fitzgerald told the Daily.
MBCR has since modified its practices in response to the citations, according to a Nov. 1 statement from the organization.
"MBCR has worked cooperatively and collaboratively with OSHA over the past six months to address all safety and workplace concerns," the statement said. "In that period, MBCR has abated or is in the process of addressing all of the issues identified by OSHA. The company will continue to work closely with OSHA and [the Federal Railroad Association] to ensure the highest possible level of safety for employees and customers."
MBCR's management and union officials and OSHA's two assistant area directors reviewed the citations and brainstormed resolutions to the violations in an informal conference on Nov. 7, according to Erskine.
Fitzgerald expects that the two parties will either arrive at a resolution or proceed to litigation before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission by December of 2011.
"Resolving the matter would involve correcting the hazards, outlining what steps the employer would take to prevent their recurrence and [determining the] payment of the fine," Fitzgerald said. "Fines are due when the matter is settled."
Erskine was optimistic that the two parties will be able to reach a settlement.
"[MBCR is] taking proactive measures to better protect their employees in the future," he said.