National Clothesline
How a leak from snow
brought a tale of woe

By Henry W D Parker
What really happens if you don’t train your employees in the basic safety information?
I cannot say that this happens every time you forget or just don’t train a new employee, but it
happened to one of our clients last winter.
Picture this, Christmas 2016 and your business is closed for the weekend because, of course,
Christmas was on Sunday. Monday morning the snow load on the 1920s building was too great
for the roof and the corner gave up just enough to leak inside — not so bad that it couldn’t be
fixed easily with money and labor, but bad enough to leak.
What is harder to fix is the uproar that happened that Monday December 26.
An employee who had been there working since the week before Christmas noticed that there
was water coming from the plastic sheeting that had been applied on Christmas Day to divert
the water and it was splashing near her work station at a laundry folder.
So, what happened next? She called her boyfriend and he showed up with his cell phone and
took some pictures of the leaks. By the time the owner of the business could ask the boyfriend
to leave, he was yelling at the owner that he was going to sue them for having a violation of the
safety rules, (now understand he didn’t work there) and she, the worker, said, “We are out of
here” and they both left the building.
The owner thought he was done with the worker and her boyfriend until they got a letter from
OSHA in their state requesting information about the water that was complained about.
On January 12, 2017 the state OSHA letter stated that the Hazard Description was as follows:
1. Roof leaking in multiple places onto electrical wiring; 2. Big hole in metal falling through.
Now I ask you, does that sound like OSHA is describing what the employee complained about
or is it that the water was leaking on her workspace?
So the owner sent OSHA the information and invoices totaling about $1,400 and photos of the
roof in its repaired condition. That was in January.
On July 13, they received a letter stating that there was an insufficient response and they
wanted more proof that the repairs had been made and their employee training records for the
past three years.
The owner then sent 17 pages of information with pictures describing the actual repairs and
the invoices again and the training materials. This time there were arrows on the pictures
showing them exactly where the repairs were made. There were pictures inside and outside of
the building.
All this hopefully goes away with the new response to the July letter from OSHA, but we are
not so sure about what will come next.
The problem could come down to training, but we don’t know if the employee knew that
training was something that all the other employees had done as she was a provisional
employee that was essentially on the month probation at the workplace. Sure, she was
instructed on how to fold a towel but not in the required OSHA materials that awaited when she
was made permanent.
Three things happened here that upset the whole workplace: the employee called someone
into the workplace that had no authorization to be there from the owner and there was yelling
and an argument until they left; the owner had not trained the employee in the required OSHA
material before her first work assignment; and the roof leaked because of a three feet deep
snow on the roof that was dealt with by diverting the water away insufficiently.
These wrongs occurred and making them right required some sleepless nights and a lot of
paperwork to find a solution. Training employees on the first day is not negotiable with OSHA
and having strangers in your business taking pictures isn’t either.
This incident most likely will require follow up and I will let you all know in the next
installment. Meanwhile every time you have a group meeting, document that meeting.
Through his firm Safety & Environmental Compliance Consultants, Henry W D Parker works with
drycleaners in to bring employee training up to date and remain compliant with EPA, OSHA and
other workplace safety rules. He can be reached by phone at (877) 302-5842 or by visiting his