If 2015 felt like a monumental year of changes within OSHA, wait until 2016.
At the 2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo, OSHA administrator David Michaels announced that the agency would place less emphasis on counting the number of inspections it conducts; instead, it has developed a new enforcement weighting system that assigns greater value to complicated inspections.
Although OSHA is launching the new system, Patrick Kapust, Deputy Director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, said in an interview with Safety+Health Magazine that employers shouldn't brace for change.
“It is important to recognize what will not change,” he said. “Whether it is to respond to a worker complaint alleging exposure to serious workplace hazards, investigate the occurrence of a severe injury or illness, or implement an enforcement emphasis program, all inspections will receive OSHA’s full commitment and effort to address relevant safety and health issues.”
“It is important to recognize what will not change...all inspections will receive OSHA’s full commitment and effort to address relevant safety and health issues.”
Under the new system, inspections will be weighted under a one-through-eight enforcement unit system. Routine inspections will count as one enforcement unit, and inspections that require more time or resources will be weighted two or higher.
Kapust said OSHA's new enforcement program was inspired by, and is gaining new data from, the updated recordkeeping rule which went into effect in January. Before 2015, employers were only required to report work-related fatalities or incidents in which three or more workers were hospitalized. Now, employers must report all work-related fatalities within eight hours, and all amputations, eye loss incidents, and inpatient hospitalizations must be reported within 24 hours.
“Often, when we conducted inspections of the worksites involved in these tragic events, we found that they had previous serious injuries and amputations that we had never known about,” Kapust said. “These injuries were red flags that there were serious hazards in this workplace that needed to be prevented.”
Health and safety professionals expect the new enforcement measures, paired with more stringent recordkeeping requirements, will affect OSHA's Top Ten Violations, which are announced each fall. Even as OSHA announces new enforcement measures, the agency has yet to publicly comment on the Federal Budget Agreement bill, which was signed in November and may increase OSHA fines by 80%.
To read the entire interview with Patrick Kapust, Deputy Director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, visit the Safety+Health Magazine article.