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In March and April I attended a couple of meeting where OSHA updates were covered by the Director of Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health. His updates covered both updates in what is happening in both state and federal OSHA.

One of the first things covered was the mandated increase in compliance inspections by both federal and state administered OSHA’s. The number of compliance inspections in Arizona has increased even with a shortage of compliance inspectors with approximately 130,000 businesses in the state. Statistically they are finding that approximately 45% of businesses inspected are in compliance which is good, unfortunately, that leaves 55% of the businesses non-compliant which is not good for employees.

The use of the free OSHA training and consultation serves has increased and continuing to increase which is a good sign that more businesses are starting to take employee safety more seriously. Currently if your company wants to utilize this free service from OSHA you will have to schedule their service 4-6 weeks in advance and due to demand they are limiting the number of visits per year. However, you can still take advantage of the free training classes they conduct throughout the state all year long. You can find a schedule of training classes on the Arizona Industrial Commission web site. Go to organization, scroll down to OSHA, scroll down to the second block of titles and click on ADOSH Advocate, and open the current issue. The training schedule is listed at the end of the newsletter for the quarter. It is an excellent source of information on safety and issues.

This year federal OSHA emphasis program is targeting the OSHA 300 logs and reporting and all state run OSHA programs are following the federal program. Several times a year I get phone calls from clients asking what the OSHA 300 logs and reports are and are they required to maintain these logs. The answer is very simple. Yes! All companies are required to maintain these injury logs and summary reports annually per 29 CFR Part 1904 Recording and Reporting Occupation Injuries and Illness. During compliance inspections this year, compliance officers will be asking to review your OSHA 300 logs and summary reports for at least the past three years minimum. If you do not have the required documentation you can expect to be cited and penalized for failure to maintain the logs. In March of this year a company in Arizona was fined $300 for failing to have logs and summary reports for the past three years. If your logs are filled out improperly, inaccurately or you have failed to list some injuries you may also be looking at additional penalties. There is a change coming to the OSHA 300 logs which is suppose to take effect on January 1stof 2011 and that is the addition of reporting MSD (Muscular, Skeletal Disorders) also known as repetitive stress syndrome. If you would like a copy of the 29CFR Part 1904 on reporting, you may contact me via e-mail and I will forward a copy to you in PDF format.

More changes coming from federal OSHA to both the General Industry and Construction Industry standards this year. The final rule for crane and derrick changes is suppose to be finalized in July, eight years after the process began. Additional changes to expect in the future are to walking and working surfaces and fall protection for general industry and confined spaces for construction industry.

There is new legislation moving through Congress to bring OSHA into the 21st century and to bring legal power up to the same level as other federal agencies, such as EPA, DOT, Dept. of Agriculture, etc. In the forty years since OSHA was signed into law, penalties have only been increased one time. The average penalty for a violation under federal inspections is $1000 per violation and in many cases they are contested and reduced. The maximum penalty for a serious violation is $7,000 and for a serious willful violation the maximum penalty is $70,000. If there is a fatality at a workplace and a business owner or manager is found guilty in court of contributing to the death of the employee through non compliance the maximum jail time is six months. Some of the major changes proposed under this house bill are as follows:

·        Increase the maximum penalty for serious willful violations from $70,000 to   $250,000.

·        Increase jail time on criminal cases involving workplace fatalities from the current six months to a maximum of ten years.

·        Expanding potential criminal liability to corporate officers and directors in workplace fatalities.

·        Increasing the time for employees to report work place discrimination involving a work place inspection from thirty days to one hundred eighty days.

This bill wants to send a message to the employers who ignore employee work place safety. If they do not want to be compliant under the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA Act, then there will be substantial consequences. Being compliant is just good business no matter how you look at it.

A British statesman once remarked “The only human institution that rejects progress is the cemetery”.

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