WALLINGFORD — Several town departments were recently fined for workplace safety violations following inspections by Department of Labor’s Connecticut Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
CONN-OSHA conducted planned inspections at seven town facilities earlier this year and issued 15 fines totaling $6,900. The fines include $1,300 to the Police Department, $430 to Public Works, $490 to Parks and Recreation, $1,330 to the Water Division, $1,470 each to the Sewer Division and Animal Control, and $420 to Town Hall.
Many of the fines were issued because departments did not take safety precautions mandated by CONN-OSHA or maintain records related to workplace safety.
Public Works was fined for failing to “ensure employees used appropriate eye protection when using liquid chemicals. Town Hall was fined for not maintaining records regarding the “presence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing material and presumed asbestos-containing material in the building.”
CONN-OSHA also cited departments for less serious violations that did not trigger a fine. In some cases, the violations were corrected during the inspection, DOL spokesman Nancy Steffens said.
The inspections, which took place from Feb. 14 to March 19 of this year, were planned in advanced and were not initiated by any complaints, said Steffens. As a general rule, she said CONN-OSHA inspects workplaces in Connecticut municipalities every five to seven years.
“It’s not an infrequent thing,” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said about the inspections.
Not every town department or workplace was inspected, Steffens said.
“An attempt is made to inspect a variety of departments including high hazard areas while allowing the town to self-inspect other departments in an effort to allow it to be more proactive regarding workplace safety and health,” she said.
CONN-OSHA last inspected town facilities about five years ago, Dickinson said. In the past, the town has also asked CONN-OSHA’s how to improve workplace safety, he added.
“If we don't have a safe work environment, we want to know it and we’ll look to fix it,” Dickinson said. “...We’re very open to being responsible and maintaining a safe environment.”
While the town agrees with “a number of fines” issued, “there are some that we don't agree with,” Dickinson said.
The town is disputing one fine — an $810 fine issued to the Police Department for “not ensuring each affected employee used issued body armor by developing and implementing a mandatory wear policy,” according to Steffens.
In a memo stating its intent to contest the fine, the town argued that CONN-OSHA has not “promulgated any regulation… specifically requiring and defining a mandatory wear policy for police body armor.”
The town said the police department presently requires officers to wear body armor for “high-risk tactical operations” and provides officers with body armor for those operations.
Steffens said CONN-OSHA has a requirement in place for police officers to wear body armor. In the past, the agency has worked with other law enforcement entities to put in place policies for mandatory wearing of body armor, she said.
“The end goal is to advocate for the health and safety of every worker so that at the end of the day, each employee is able to return home safely to his or her family,” Steffans said.