To give you an idea of how many inspections have been conducted involving pro-sports teams, I ran searches on OSHA’s inspection search tool on their website (yes, I do have too much free time on my hands) to find inspection data as far back as 1972 for every pro football, basketball, and major-league baseball team located in the US (sorry hockey fans, but I don’t know any hockey team names, and aren’t they all located in Canada anyway?). I don’t claim this is every inspection conducted within the group, just the ones that came up during my simple searches. Here is what I found:
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Partial Inspection / Accident – 2010 (no citations issued)
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Partial Inspection / Complaint – 2008 (no citations issued)
- Los Angeles Dodgers – Accident / Failure to report fatality within 24 hours (maintenance man slipped and fell, died much later) – 2007 (two citations, $5,375)
- Denver Broncos - Partial Inspection / Planned inspection (emphasis on falls) – 2006 (no citations issued)
- Dallas Cowboys – Partial inspection / Referral (related to structure collapse during storm) – 2009 (no citations issued)
- New Orleans Saints – Partial inspection / Accident (electrical safety related work practices) – 2003 (one citation for $2,100)
- Chicago Bears – Partial inspection / Complaint (aerial lift) – 2009 (one citation for $2,450)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Partial inspection / Referral – 2006 (one citation for $1,375)
- New York Mets – Partial inspection / Complaint – 2004 (no citations issued)
- Seattle Mariners – Partial Inspection / Non-program related – 2004 (one citation for $700)
Ten inspections. Only ten! Since 1972!!! And they are almost all related to a complaint or accident. And only four of these inspections netted a citation.
I’ve researched this matter some on the internet, and have seen speculation that OSHA does not inspect pro teams because their players are not considered “employees”, but rather “independent contractors” under contract to the team (and therefore exempt from OSHA). But how well does that strategy work when a roofing contractor claims that he has hired “independent contractors” to work on a work-crew? Not too well at all. I’ve also seen statements suggesting that many workers at pro sports venues (like food vendors, maintenance, and security) may actually be employees of other companies that have contracted with the pro sports teams to perform work at the stadiums and ballparks, so if there is a violation involving one of these workers, the team would not get the citation. But even if that is the case, you've still got to think one of the teams would’ve been cited for at least one hazard under OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy.
Besides, there has to be plenty of other people actually employed by the teams that could be exposed to serious hazards. Ever seen a trainer treating a player with a bloody nose on the sideline without wearing proper PPE? Ever seen a member of the coaching staff observing or videotaping practice from the basket of an aerial lift without wearing a harness and lanyard attached to the boom or basket? Bet you’ve seen a cheerleader or mascot live on national TV dancing and strutting along the unprotected edge of a platform or dugout while exposed to a 9-foot fall. I’m just saying that if an OSHA compliance officer driving down the street ever saw a carpenter standing along the eve of a house with no fall protection, they’d probably pull right over and declare an imminent danger! But I guess cheerleaders and mascots don’t fall. Or, as I pondered before, maybe OSHA compliance officers don’t ever watch professional sports, so they don’t see these kinds of things.
Have you ever wondered about OSHA inspections at pro sports teams? Or maybe you know about an inspection that is not listed here? Or perhaps there is another highly-visible industry you feel is ignored by OSHA’s compliance officers. If so, or if you have other related comments about this topic, would you please share your experience with others in the comments section below?
And please, pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information (unless they are a hockey fan).