CA11: Work-related injuries don’t necessarily translate into OSHA violations; records request quashed as overbroad

Existence of work-related injuries or illnesses do not translate directly into reasonable suspicion that an OSHA violation occurred. The district court was correct in quashing the inspection warrant for lack of a proper showing, without prejudice to OSHA establishing the proper standard. United States v. Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 28400 (11th Cir. Oct. 9, 2018):

These logs, as their title suggests, record work-related injuries and illnesses, not OSHA violations. The Regulations provide that “[r]ecording or reporting a work-related injury, illness, or fatality does not mean that the employer or employee was at fault, that an OSHA rule has been violated, or that the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation or other benefits.” 29 C.F.R. § 1904.0. The existence of injuries thus does not necessarily mean that the injuries were caused by OSHA violations, or justify the issuance of an administrative warrant for evidence of OSHA violations. The Court notes, however, that although OSHA 300 logs do not document the cause of the injury or illness, they can be relevant to whether hazards exist.

The content of the OSHA 300 logs in this case fails to create reasonable suspicion either alone or in combination with the other information in the application. As to ergonomic hazards, the United States asserts that “multiple reports of work-related musculoskeletal illnesses, such as tendonitis and tendomyopathy” are recorded in the OSHA 300 logs, providing reasonable suspicion that Mar-Jac lacks an appropriate ergonomics program. A review of the OSHA 300 logs shows that the twenty-five incidents relied on to support a warrant to inspect as to an ergonomics plan have vague descriptions and fail to show any pattern as to the location of the injury (elbow, hand, wrist, back, shoulder, thigh, arm, knee, etc.) or any pattern as to the department where the injuries occurred (rehang, debone, live dock, shipping, evisceration, cone line, stack off, sizing, etc.). With a workforce of 1,112 employees within the facility, the OSHA 300 logs fail to provide reasonable suspicion that ergonomics violations are likely to be found.

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