Auditing your workplace safety compliance is a great idea at the start of a new year, to ensure you’re ready in case of an OSHA inspection. Changes in emphasis from OSHA mean that employers need to be more vigilant than ever.

In a BLR webinar titled “Workplace Safety 2012: Get Prepared and Avoid Costly Citations,” Tiffani H. Casey, Esq., outlined some of the recent developments from OSHA, including their new emphasis on issuing repeat violations and their Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP).

  • The Rise of Repeat Violations in OSHA Inspections:

OSHA is now more likely to re-visit workplaces as well. These types of changes will have a more significant impact on corporate sites that are all treated as one workplace. They’re also being more selective about inspection targets, with the goal of finding and citing more severe violations.

  • The Severe Violators Enforcement Program

The criteria for a “Severe Violator” case can include these types of situations (though one of these situations is not a guarantee of being added to the list):

  1. Fatality or other catastrophe
  2. Non-fatality or catastrophe-related to high-emphasis hazards
  3. Non-fatality or catastrophe for hazards due to the potential release of a highly hazardous chemicals
  4. Egregious criterion

In any given year, less than 1 percent of U.S. worksites are subject to an OSHA inspection, and few violations (only about 4 percent) are categorized as “willful,” “repeat,” or “failure-to-abate” citations. You can see why this is a small distinct list for OSHA to watch over, and they get a lot of OSHA attention. If you’re singled out for this list, you can expect enforcement actions such as:

  1. Mandatory follow-up OSHA inspections
  2. Increased company and corporate awareness of OSHA
  3. Corporate-wide settlement agreements, in which OSHA looks at all of a company’s facilities for repeats
  4. Enhanced settlement provisions and federal court enforcement under Section 11(b) of the OSH Act

An employer can only get removed from the list if an informal or formal settlement vacates the citation, or an Administrative Law Judge, Review Commission, or court decision vacates the citation, but obviously it’s better to not land there in the first place!

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