If you think OSHA is a small town in Wisconsin you’re in trouble. Congress passed into law in December 1970 OSHA Act within the U.S. Department of Labor which went into effect January 1971. It has now been thirty nine years and the learning curve is over. Employers who have high risk environments can expect more visits from OSHA with higher penalties. Here is what employers can expect starting in 2010.

Federal OSHA will be hiring an additional 150 new compliance officers for FY 2010. This is for the stepped up enforcement of the law for safety compliance. These new inspectors will cover the states that do not have an OSHA department, which is approximately half of the states and possessions. This also includes all federal agencies, military bases and reservations (except for two).

It is estimated by some sources that compliance inspections nationwide will increase from 38,000 to approximately 44,000.

Penalties issued by OSHA for compliance violations will be higher than in the past.

New standards will be passed on combustible dust protection, cranes and derricks and confined spaces in construction. The hazard communication standard will also be rewritten and updated to be consistent with new MSDS laws commonly known as the Global Harmonization System (GHS).

During the 2011 and 2012 time frame new standards will be issued on ergonomics and the basic requirements for maintaining a worksite safety and health program.

Compliance to the OSHA Act and standards will be more aggressive and be at or higher than the levels of compliance inspection of the late 1980’s.

Audits for companies wishing to become a VPP certified site will probably become more stringent and consistent than in the past.

Employer safety incentive programs will come under scrutiny during inspections. This is due to employees not reporting injuries so they won’t be eligible for the gifts, safety bonus, etc.

Record keeping on the OSHA 300 logs will also be scrutinized for fraud, under reporting, not reporting injuries on log or failure to maintain the logs.

What are the criteria that can trigger a compliance inspection for a state of federal OSHA compliance inspector? Below are the criteria listed in priority starting with the highest priority.

Eminent danger to employees at a facility or job site.

Fatality or catastrophe at the work place or job site.

A complaint filed by a current employee, former employee, third party, other government agency or a referral complaint by a medical doctor.

Programmed or schedule compliance inspections are determined on your SIC (standard industry code), higher than normal accident rate for your industry, hazards known to your industry, etc.

If you don’t have a copy of the OSHA CFR1910 standards for General Industry or CFR 1926 standards for Construction, you may want to invest in the purchase from your local OSHA office. In Arizona you can purchase the CFR 1910 standards for $20 and the CFR 1926 standards for $15 from the ADOSH consultation office.

If you don’t have a written safety program and training in place, now is an excellent time to start implementing a safety program.

You may be asking, which records will be reviewed by the OSHA compliance officer during a compliance inspection. In my experience the first documents they always want to review are the OSHA 300 logs, Summary Report and all supporting documentation. These documents are mandatory under CFR 1904 of the OSHA Act of 1970.

The following documents that a compliance officer normally will ask to review are your written safety program and policies. Written hazard job analysis of each task performed by all employees and how the hazards are mitigated through engineering controls, process changes, PPE or a combination of all three. All of your training records which will include a sign in log for each topic for employees to sign, quizzes (if you use quizzes), how the material was presented (video, lecture, hands on, power point), etc. Equipment safety inspection records in accordance with the recommendations of the manufacturer, ANSI and/or OSHA standards. The inspector will also want to see copies of your safety audit records with corrective actions taken on hazard abatement. One document few employers have is disciplinary action records to hold employees accountable who violate company safety policies. Last but not least, if you have a safety committee the inspector may ask to see copies of the minutes. After the compliance officer reviews all of these documents, the walk through compliance inspection bill commence.

OSHA Act of 1970 “General Duty Clause”:

Each employer shallfurnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment which are free of recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or physical harm to his employees: shallcomply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.

For those employers who are not familiar with the penalties that can be levied on an employer by OSHA, below gives a breakdown

OSHA Penalties:

Non-Serious (Other Than Serious) – Is a violation of an OSHA standard which is considered minor and may not carry a penalty with it. The violation still has to be abated. May or may not carry a penalty.

Serious – Is a hazard in violation of an OSHA standard which has a high probability of causing illness, injury or possible death and will have a monetary penalty attached which will be determined by OSHA. Maximum penalty may range up to $7,000 per violation.

Willful Serious – Is a hazard in violation of an OSHA standard which the company or management was aware of but failed to correct or abate the hazard which would lead to imminent danger of health, injury or death to an employee. This type of citation carries the potential for very expensive penalties. Maximum penalty may range up to $70,000 per violation.

Failure to Abate – Is when an employer fails to abate a hazard after receiving the inspection report with violations and penalties. Maximum penalty may range up to $7,000 per day per violation.

Source: Notes from ASSE convention in Dallas, Director of Federal OSHA, and OSHA standards.

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