We were priveleged to have had a face to face meeting with Director Michaels of OSHA earlier this year.
We brought up the topic of harsh regulatory tone.
Director Michaels characterized the agency as ‘small and needing strong means to remain effective.’
We congratulated him on the agency’s success at portraying themselves as aggressive regulators.
The OSHA website has this to say:
“OSHA is a small agency; with our state partners we have approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites around the nation – which translates to about one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.”
Before getting too sympathetic, a review of some facts might be in order:
Actually average proposed penalties are up by 102%
OSHA Budget is up!
FY 2011: $573,096,000
FY 2012: $583,386,000
Although by Washington DC standards a little over half a billion dollars and an increase of $10.3 million dollars probably doesn’t seem like much money at all.
According to Sherman and Howard Law Blog
“Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, recently stated that the higher penalties are still too low when compared to other regulatory agencies. He defended the higher penalties as an important tool in OSHA’s overall efforts to increase enforcement. In our view, this increase comes as no surprise and employers can expect even higher penalties in 2012 and beyond. “
OSHA seems to be taking this size thing to heart!
Since higher penalties remain an important tool and are still too low, and since OSHA cannot practically visit all 7 million workplaces it makes sense for employers to proactively address OSHA compliance.
When OSHA arrives, they will be itchin’ to do a great job.
The first place to start would be how does a small agency prioritize its enforcement resources?
1. Imminent danger situations—hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm— receive top priority.
2. Fatalities and catastrophes—incidents that involve a death or the hospitalization of three or more employees—come next.
3. Complaints—allegations of hazards or violations also receive a high priority.
4. Referrals of hazard information from other federal, state or local agencies, individuals, organizations or the media receive consideration for inspection.
5. Follow-ups—checks for abatement of violations cited during previous inspections—are also conducted by the agency in certain circumstances.
6. Planned or programmed investigations— inspections aimed at specific high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses— also receive priority.
For more on these inspection priorities consult the OSHA Fact Sheet link below.
Back to Basics!
Train your people in
- Personal Protective Equipment,
- Lockout- Tagout,
- Right To Know Haz Comm,
- Slips Falls Tripping Hazards,
- Machine Guarding,
- Powered Industrial Trucks ,
- Electrical- Wiring and General,
You can intelligently manage your risk of OSHA Enforcement and penalties by asking yourself these three questions and then doing something about them:
- Do you have a process for managing safety?
- Is it followed?
- Is it effective?
As employers we have a general duty to maintain a safe workplace. Let’s take our duty seriously. You know the folks from OSHA will.