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More Dope On OSHA's New Weighted Inspection Process

We updated you about OSHA’s new Weighted Inspection Program in our October 3 post, “What’s the Real Effect of OSHA’s Revamped Inspection Process, the Enforcement Weighing System?” A Bloomberg BNA piece tonight summed up the processes’ effect:

The new measurement method—the “enforcement weighting system”—has replaced the OSHA practice of simply counting inspections and assigning each inspection the same degree of importance when measuring enforcement activities. The new system ranks inspections based on the time and resources needed to conduct evaluations, with complicated inspections receiving more points than those requiring no assistance from additional OSHA staff.

You may want to review our Post before reading further, but the short explanation is that the system is designed to allow OSHA to focus its resources on conducting fewer but more significant inspections and advancing the Administration’s goal to create new legal obligations involving ergonomics, workplace violence, industrial hygiene, and nontraditional employee roles. I agree with the underfunded Agency’s goal of better focusing resources. However, let’s be honest, OSHA is also working to build on its various ergonomic and other efforts without rulemaking or new laws. Bloomberg BNA’s article repeated what I’ve been saying for months:

OSHA expects the new system to result in an increase in the use of the general duty clause in citations because the weighted system will encourage complicated inspections, which are more likely to lead to citations for serious hazards not covered by a specific standard.

Like many OSHA efforts, whether the Weighted Inspection Program makes workers safer depends on how the Administration uses it. Never read my Posts as critical of the excellent career folks in OSHA; only the Political leaders who may use the process for political goals. I’d up OSHA’s funding tomorrow if the career folks could direct the resources.

Detail on How the Weighed Inspection Process works

This evening, Bloomberg BNA, who always seems to have the best new scoop, published the September 30 Memo to Regional Administrators Bloomberg FOIA’d and which explains how the system works. The supposedly transparent Administration earlier declined to offer details. Thanks Bloomberg BNA!

Bloomberg BNA explains the program’s approach:

Under the old system, Michaels said, some employers may have decided that OSHA wasn't likely to conduct inspections looking at ergonomic problems or chemical exposures because the agency didn't have specific standards to address those hazards.

“In order to maximize deterrence, it is important for employers to know that we may conduct inspections and issue citations for any sort of serious hazard, whether or not we have a specific applicable standard,” Michaels said.

So here’s the way OSHA will evaluate their CSHO’s inspections. The Memorandum sets out the credits below for different types on inspections. Is it safe to assume that Compliance Officers and Area Directors will consider these factors in focusing their efforts?

  • 8 EUs: significant case ($100,000-plus fine),
  • 7 EUs: process safety management,
  • 5 EUs: ergonomic hazard,
  • 4 EUs: heat hazard,
  • 3 EUs: fatality or catastrophe,
  • 3 EUs: nonpermissible exposure level exposure hazards,
  • 3 EUs: workplace violence,
  • 2 EUs: combustible dust,
  • 2 EUs: federal agency and
  • 2 EUs: personal exposure sampling.

Morals of the Story
Don’t focus on whether the process is good or bad. Consider these areas and proactively address compliance issues and hazards. I’m a 26 year Scout Adult Leader and will close with this admonition: Be prepared.


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