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So-called Victim of Government should look elsewhere for pity; business cited for unsafe working conditions

As part of his ongoing “Victims of Government” series, which spotlights ways that the big bad government spends money to keep its citizens safe, Sen. Ron Johnson last week introduced us to Catherine Engelbrecht, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and small business owner.

What was one of Ms. Engelbrecht’s big gripes with the allegedly overreaching government? An unannounced visit and inspection from OSHA at her Houston-area manufacturing plant, during which she was fined $25,000.

Steven Elbow of the Capital Times of Madison, Wis., took it upon himself to fact-check Ms. Engelbrecht’s allegations. Here’s what he found:

  • OSHA records reveal that Engelbrecht Manufacturing garnered nine citations labeled “serious” during its July 10 and 11 inspection last year.
  • According to this OSHA document, Engelbrecht negotiated the $25,000 fine down to $14,910.
  • The business was cited for obstructions in aisles, neglect in labeling non-exit doorways that could be mistaken for exits, failure to make sure the forklift operators wore seatbelts, not providing employees operating a metal grinder with protective eyewear, allowing an employee to operate a forklift without proper training and certification, failure to install guards on rotating grinders and band saws, failure to anchor a milling machine to the floor, creating an electrical hazard by plugging heavy machinery and other electrical devices into portable power strips instead of fixed wiring, and failure to label numerous hazardous chemicals.
  • Of Engelbrecht’s complaint that the OSHA inspections were “unscheduled,” Department of Labor spokeswoman Diana Petterson responds: “it is illegal to provide advance notice of OSHA inspections so there is no such thing as a ‘scheduled audit.’”

Engelbrecht’s company had not been inspected in the previous 18 years. (And with current OSHA resources, that’s easy to believe. Federal OSHA can inspect workplaces, on average, once every 131 years.)

So, Ms. Engelbrecht, we are sorry it took so long for OSHA to inspect your workplace. But your sob story about being fined for your failure to maintain a safe workplace – a fine that you later had reduced anyways – that, you’ll have to take elsewhere. We are not sorry that the government of which you claim to be a victim stepped in to ensure that your employees – and all Americans – have access to a safe and healthy workplace.

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