On October 15, 2010, OSHA Assistant Secretary, Dr. David Michaels sent a letter to all OSHA personnel that outlined the progress being made to transform the agency. This letter was an update to a July 19 document Michaels issued to OSHA staff, “OSHA at Forty: New Challenges and New Directions.” In his July letter, Michaels discussed transforming OSHA by focusing on nine areas.
Stronger Enforcement OSHA is increasing its inspection activity and imposing more stringent penalties. OSHA has shifted its employees from compliance assistance to enforcement and plans to hire additional enforcement officers. OSHA conducted 40,600 total inspections during Fiscal Year 2010, compared to 39,004 inspections during Fiscal Year 2009.
OSHA is issuing more press releases that explain more clearly why a specific employer was cited. “The primary purpose of our enforcement program is deterrence. By inspecting workplaces and issuing and publicizing penalties where violations are found, we hope that all employers will recognize the risk they take by not abating serious hazards,” wrote Michaels in his October letter.
OSHA will be changing the way that it calculates penalties. An outline of the changes can be found here: http://www.osha.gov/dep/administrative-penalty.html
Ensure workers have a voice OSHA is reaching out to vulnerable workers who may be low pay, non-English speaking, low literacy, or not in a labor organization through events like the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety. Workers must know about their rights under the law and feel that they can exercise those rights. OSHA is reviewing the Whistleblower Protection Program and ensuring that officers talk to workers privately and confidentially during inspections.
Refocus and Strengthen Compliance Assistance Programs OSHA is refocusing its compliance assistance programs. Michaels still supports programs like the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), but the funding has been redirected to focus on enforcement. OSHA will develop more compliance assistance materials that all workers can understand and use.
Change Workplace Culture OSHA seeks to improve the workplace safety culture, so that employers do not merely just do what’s necessary to comply with OSHA standards. Employers must “find and fix” all workplace hazards. This does not just apply when there is a particular hazard covered by an OSHA standard. This change in culture would require employers to implement risk-based safety programs and focus on hazard assessment and control.
Develop Innovative Approaches to Addressing Hazards: Improve Intra-Agency Cooperation OSHA is working to ensure that directors and field operations personnel work together closely and cooperatively. OSHA will improve its coordination with other agencies whose work is closely aligned, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Improve and Modernize Workplace Injury and Illness Tracking OSHA is concerned that employers may be under-recording or incorrectly reporting injuries on the OSHA 300 log. Injury and illness data that is reported to OSHA is used to target inspections. Under the Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program (NEP), OSHA has conducted 187 inspections and found recordkeeping violations in almost 50% of the inspections. OSHA is looking into electronic recordkeeping programs in order to obtain more up-to-date information and better focus NEPs.
Strengthen OSHA’s use of Science OSHA is going to begin addressing the outdated Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), many of which were developed in the 1970s. Also, there are many chemicals for which a PEL has not been developed. OSHA held a web forum and received 130 nominations for chemicals that should be added to the list.
Conduct OSHA’s work with transparency OSHA will share useful information with people. For example, OSHA is posting employer specific injury and illness data and sampling data results. The sampling data from OSHA inspections can be found on the web and accessed at: www.osha.gov/opengov/healthsamples.html
Strengthen state OSHA plans OSHA evaluated the operation of 25 State Plans to ensure that there are not problems with the state-run programs. OSHA found that many State Plans were operating effectively, but also found some Plans with discrepancies that OSHA will begin to address.
For your information, below are some other OSHA updates which were not addressed in the above nine areas which may be of interest.
Injury and Illness Prevention Program OSHA is developing a rule that would require employers to have a written safety and health program that would be referred to as an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
Even if a hazard is not regulated under a specific standard, developing programs to control hazards is required under the General Duty Clause.
Severe Violator Enforcement Program OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) concentrates resources on inspecting employers who commit willful or repeated violations or fail to abate previously issued violations. Michaels said in the press release outlining the SVEP, “For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA’s requirements. Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.” Once an employer is placed in the SEVP, OSHA may conduct enhanced follow-up inspections and inspections of the other locations of the employer.
Site Specific Targeting Program OSHA is targeting select high-hazard workplaces where the highest rates of injuries and illness occur. Based on injury and illness data, OSHA developed a list of 4,100 facilities and will randomly select employers to inspect.
Recordkeeping National Emphasis Programs (NEP) OSHA adjusted the Recordkeeping NEP to focus on larger worksites with higher injury rates. The NEP is scheduled to run through February, 2012.
Most Frequently Cited Standards OSHA published its list of the most frequently cited standards during Fiscal Year 2010 (October 1, 2009- September 30, 2010). At the top of the list for general industry was the Hazard Communication Standard, followed by Respiratory Protection, Ladders and Lockout/Tagout. http://www.osha.gov/Top_Ten_Standards.html
For more information or if you would like assistance with any of your Health and Safety programs, contact Colleen Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508.970.0033 extension 129.