WARMINSTER Bucks County business owner William H. Marsh said he expected to pay a "substantial fine" after a federal regulator executed a warrant to inspect his steel-products manufacturing plant Monday.
"This is a dangerous place to work," Marsh said of his Warminster company, American Bar Products Inc. He said his 11 employees work in a noisy, dusty, and greasy environment, adding, "I might get in trouble for saying that."
"If you want a totally safe plant, then you shut down that plant and you don't work," Marsh said. Given the dangerous nature of the job, Marsh said, his employees "understand safety and their jobs better than anyone else," adding: "They should not be persecuted. They should be thanked."
Marsh, 42, said the federal government could put him out of business by enforcing workplace safety regulations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in April 2011 cited American Bar Products with 13 violations, 10 of them labeled "serious," and assessed a $13,000 "initial penalty," according to public records.
Among the serious violations was a failure to meet the minimum performance requirements for controlling hazardous energy, failure to meet the requirements on portable fire extinguishers, and failure to satisfy the standard of communicating hazards and appropriate protective measures to employees, according to OSHA records.
An OSHA official said a serious violation is one in which there is "substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard."
American Bar Products, formerly known as Phoenix CFB Inc., reached an informal settlement to pay a reduced fine of $8,400 in the 2011 case. "Capitulating was the least expensive option," Marsh said Monday, explaining why he did not appeal OSHA's 2011 penalty.
An OSHA compliance officer attempted to inspect American Bar Products last month under its directive to measure noise levels at metals facilities. Marsh denied OSHA entry Nov. 21 but said he permitted it Monday "under duress" when the officer presented the warrant.
As the officer began his inspection, about a dozen protesters with the pro-deregulation grassroots network FreedomWorks blasted OSHA.
"Small business is the engine of this country, and regulation is killing small business," said Anastasia Przybylski, FreedomWorks regional field coordinator. She said OSHA's regulations "are written in a way that it's easy to find someone not in compliance."
"Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA can enter a work site without delay and at reasonable times to inspect workplace safety and health conditions," spokeswoman Leni Uddyback-Fortson said in a statement. "When required in order to conduct its inspection, OSHA can seek an inspection warrant."
The warrant that OSHA executed Monday cited "probable cause," but it did not state what the cause was, and Marsh said he was not told.
"If they can do this to a private business, there's no reason they can't do this at your home," he said.
"OSHA's first priority is protecting workers, and it is committed to strong, fair, and effective enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act," Uddyback-Fortson said.