City racks up VOSHA violations
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | December 06,2012
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras talks with a newspaper reporter on the phone about code violations by the city, including fire extinguishers found at City Hall years past inspection.
The city racked up 18 workplace safety violations in a recent surprise inspection by the state.
The inspections by the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration found fire extinguishers years past inspection, lack of appropriate safety equipment, damaged equipment and other violations, most of which it classified as “serious.”
Violation notices sent out by the state last month indicate the city is facing fines totaling $7,925.
“There’s no issue there that’s too small or too petty to be important,” Mayor Christopher Louras said Wednesday. “Individuals can get hurt in the workplace. Something as seemingly benign as a tripping hazard can be as dangerous as a faulty vehicle lift.”
Louras said most of the violations had been corrected.
The inspections, which took place in early October, were the first of the city by VOSHA in 12 years. Louras said the inspectors told city officials the surprise inspections were partly random and partly because of how long the city had gone uninspected.
A call to VOSHA manager Robert McLeod went unreturned Wednesday, but the notices sent to the city listed 18 violations divided among nine citations.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, the city had uncertified personnel operating a forklift, machinery at Giorgetti athletic complex that lacked proper guards, insufficient space around electronic equipment, a broken outlet at the Spruce Street public works garage and unlabeled chemicals in the basement of the Godnick Adult Center.
City buildings lacked signs marked with their approved loads, an outlet box at the police station was missing a cover, and several city buildings saw inappropriate use of extension cords and overloaded (in safety standard terms) electrical circuits.
The Recreation Department lacked a written hazard communication program, the Department of Public Works lacked an energy control program and a policy on the voluntary use of half-face respirators at the Spruce Street garage and the Police Department had been unable to locate a copy of its exposure control plan.
Two violations dealt with the DPW kitchenette in City Hall — soda cans had not been removed and mouse droppings were found on the floor.
Louras said the violations had been or were in the process of being addressed, with the exception of one — White’s Pool lacks an eye-flushing station in case workers got caustic chemicals stored on-site in their faces. Louras said that one will be addressed later as nobody is at White’s Pool at present.
Electrical work under way at City Hall will be paid out of the contingency fund or the City Hall maintenance line, Louras said.
The Board of Aldermen briefly discussed the violations during their meeting Monday, and referred the issue to the General Committee to discuss formulating a policy to prevent future violations.
Louras said the city has reduced its workers’ compensation rates over the last five years and that he looked at addressing workplace safety issues as a continuation of that effort. He also said the inspections highlighted the need for a full-time human resources position in City Hall to assure policies are in place to keep the city conforming to state regulations.
“It was actually rather good timing that we received the inspection as the budget was being drafted because I was leaning toward a full-time HR person anyway,” Louras said.