WASHINGTON (March 7, 2012)—The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission overstepped its bounds when it issued a 2010 order fining Dayton Tire & Rubber Co. nearly $2 million for more than 100 willful violations of federal safety regulations, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled.
The problem, the appeals court ruled in its March 6 decision, was that the commission levied the fines 13 years after an administrative law judge ruled most of the violations were not willful.
OSHA lacked supporting evidence for finding all the violations willful, the court ruled. It remanded the case to the agency for reassessment. “We trust the commission will act before the decade is out,” the appeals court said.
The case arose from the October 1993 death of Robert Julian, an employee of the Dayton Tire plant in Oklahoma City who was killed when the tire assembly machine he was servicing was accidentally turned on.
In April 1994, then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich came personally to Oklahoma City to serve Dayton Tire with 107 lockout/tagout citations related to Julian's death and a proposed penalty of $7.5 million. Dayton Tire appealed the citation to an administrative law judge, who in 1997 found only 37 of the violations willful and reduced the fine to $518,000. Both Dayton and Reich appealed the decision to the commission, which waited until September 2010 to find 106 of the violations willful and raise the fine to $1.975 million, the court decision said.
While the actions of the Oklahoma City plant's safety director suggested negligence in applying lockout/tagout rules, the appeals court ruled, there was insufficient evidence to suggest indifference on her part.
In a statement, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations—the parent company of Dayton Tire—said it was pleased by the appeals court decision.
“Bridgestone Americas has always been, and will remain, committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all teammates,” the company said.
The Dayton Tire plant in Oklahoma City closed in 2006.