Matt Bevin downplays BuzzFeed report on 2011 OSHA violations, calls agency 'an unfortunate nuisance'

08/14/2015 10:39 PM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin dismissed a report by BuzzFeed News Friday that his bell-manufacturing company in Connecticut had paid more than $12,000 in penalties to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, saying his December 2011 violations were administrative in nature.

What’s more, Bevin said the organization operates without a budget and targets businesses for funding.

“If OSHA comes in and you end up paying somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 12 thousand dollars, essentially they didn’t find anything,” Bevin said of the penalties Bevin Brothers Manufacturing paid in 2012.

The five-figure sum is dwarfed by recent fines in the six and seven figures touted in the agency’s news releases, but a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor refuted Bevin’s characterization of OHSA as well as the violations levied against Bevin Brothers Manufacturing.

“A search of our inspection database will show that the agency found multiple violations at this establishment, some of them serious,” Laura McGinnis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, said in an email to Pure Politics.

BuzzFeed reported that an employee complaint prompted an OSHA investigation in December 2011, months after Bevin assumed his role as president of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing. OSHA fined the company $25,880, but the sides ultimately settled on $12,575, according to the report.

From the BuzzFeed article:

While the database does not reveal details of the violations, some of the most serious broke rules regulating “the control of hazardous energy.” After an initial charge of $4,620, the company ultimately paid $3,000 for failing to comply with three of these standards, which say that employers must maintain machines and train workers to protect them from equipment unexpectedly “energizing” or releasing “stored energy.”

The third maximum-gravity violation was for a breach of a rule calling for employee protections during the use of “mechanical power presses.”

The company was further cited for violations of requirements for “mechanical power-transmission apparatus,” communicating potential hazards, and for breaking “general requirements” for hazard assessment. It also did not use proper agency forms to record injuries and illnesses.

Bevin’s campaign did not offer comment to BuzzFeed, but the GOP nominee said after Greater Louisville Inc.’s Capitol Connection luncheon Friday that the article is overblown.

“That literally was as a result of things like not having an updated safety manual,” he said of the violations. “It wasn’t a function of a safety issue. It was literally administrative things. I don’t remember all the specifics of it.”

When Pure Politics read Bevin a portion of the BuzzFeed article on the maximum-gravity violation regarding employee protections while using mechanical power presses, again said he did not recall specifics, but he offered a scenario involving a termination mechanism for presses.

“Sometimes it’s literally things like an electronic curtain, that sometimes you can put an electronic curtain on something so that if a hand or something else breaches a particular zone from a safety standpoint a press would shut off,” said Bevin, who did not respond to questions from other reporters representing WAVE-TV and The Courier-Journal. “It may have been something related to that, I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway’s gubernatorial campaign did not return a call seeking comment.

David Bergstein, spokesman for the Kentucky Democratic Party, said in a statement that Bevin “has made this escalating scandal even worse by lying about it — just like he’s lied about his failure to pay his taxes and his positions on critical issues like the Medicaid expansion and early childhood education.”

Bevin also launched into a criticism of OSHA, calling the organization “an unfortunate nuisance for many companies.”

“OSHA has no budget. I don’t know if you’re aware of that,” Bevin said. “They don’t have a budget. They fund themselves based on if they come to a location, they are in the job, in the business of getting whatever monies they can to justify their existence and justify their business. That’s the nature of it.”

“There’s a purpose to it,” he continued. “You want to make sure that you have a safe working environment. They didn’t find anything that was actually a compromising of safety. It was all administrative stuff, and that’s sadly the cost of doing business in America — one of the costs that I talk about when I talk about overregulation.”

McGinnis said OSHA has a budget, which can be viewed here, and noted that the agency sends its collections to the U.S. Treasury.

Bevin also mentioned OSHA in his remarks to about 170 at the GLI luncheon, saying the agency is one of many that regulate his businesses.

“Every single day there is some new piece of regulation somewhere that is having a suffocating effect on what I do,” he said. “There is a purpose and a role for regulation; there is a purpose and a role for government.

“But frankly government is not a business, and those who say, ‘We need to run government like a business,’ don’t frankly perhaps understand exactly the differences. … The role of government is not to grow and expand. Private-sector business, that is the point.”


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