With multiple tracks yesterday, I can only write about a few sessions. I’ll focus on topics related to OSHA’s priorities and plans as discussed in the sessions dealing with Federal and State OSHA Plan Updates and “OSHA is Serious About Using 5(a)(1) Citations,” which I moderated.
OSHA’s new rule requiring that any work-related amputation, inpatient hospitalization, or loss of an eye be reported within 24 hours has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of inspections initiated as a result of employer referrals. More than a 15 percent increase in referral-based inspections has been seen in some states. In fact, over 5,000 employers nationwide have made reports under the new rule this year despite the fact that some state plans, such as Arizona, have not yet adopted the new regulation.
The tragedy this August that claimed the life of one worker and injured another during construction of the new $1.1B Minnesota Vikings football stadium reminded us that serious accidents can happen at any site no matter the size or cost. As an avid football fan and OSHA lawyer, and with football season just getting started, it also got me thinking about workplace safety issues occurring at professional football stadiums on Sunday afternoons.
On October 1, OSHA started its “Enforcement Weighing System,” which means that OSHA Compliance Officers and Area Offices will be under less pressure to complete a number of inspections and will receive credit for separate “enforcement units” within an individual inspection. This means that potentially OSHA will conduct fewer inspections and/or routine/straightforward inspections will receive less time and scrutiny. Dr. Michaels explained that Industrial Hygienists can conduct much thorough investigations and OSHA can focus on OSHA’s evolving priorities. To me, the main message from this change is that OSHA is serious about emphasizing general duty areas with no vertical standard, especially ergonomics and workplace violence. OSHA has already publicized its enforcement emphasis on acute care hospitals and ergonomic and workplace violence challenges. This follows a serious and escalating ergonomic emphasis on distribution and especially the beverage distribution setting. Likewise, OSHA has publically expressed its intent to increase Industrial Hygiene inspections, along with increased Process Safety Management (PSM) inspections, which it has done.