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National News Release: 11-706-CHI
May 12, 2011
Contact: Scott Allen  or Rhonda Burke
Phone:   312-353-6976  
Email: allen.scott@dol.gov    burke.rhonda@dol.gov

US district court upholds OSHA subpoena in grain engulfment case

CHICAGO – A U.S. district court has upheld a subpoena issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration requesting documents from Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co. concerning inspections and reports the company prepared for Haasbach LLC. Two teenage workers were killed in a grain engulfment at Haasbach's Mount Carroll, Ill., site in July 2010.

Grinnell contended that the subpoena would discourage businesses from allowing insurers to conduct safety inspections if the material contained in the inspection reports can be used against a business during later litigation or OSHA enforcement proceedings. The court ordered that the records be given to OSHA.

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels praised the decision. "The court affirmed OSHA's authority to obtain relevant information from an employer's workers' compensation insurance company. This is not surprising legally, but it does illustrate that workers' compensation and OSHA are not separate worlds divorced from each other," he said. "Workers' compensation loss control activities overlap with OSHA's efforts to bring about safe and healthful workplaces, and in order to achieve a safe and healthful working environment for all Americans, all efforts of business, insurance, labor and government must move forward together."

The court ruled that OSHA has jurisdiction to investigate the workplace fatalities, and further has the authority to require the production of relevant evidence and the ability to issue a subpoena to obtain that evidence. The requested documents, which in