From the 2015 fall agenda it looks like OSHA is still poised to have an active year in 2016.

Starting out of the blocks, the proposed rule “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” is still on the radar and moving forward. It has moved into the final stages of rule-making and under review. As you may remember from last year’s article, the design of this proposed rule by OSHA is to update and modernize the reporting system by implementing electronic reporting elements which provide more timely injury and illness data, and increase the availability of these records to the public. The proposed rule would require the following changes:

  • Employers with 250 or more employees must electronically submit their workplace injury and illness records on a quarterly basis.
  • Employers not exempt from the recordkeeping and reporting rule, with 20 or more employees, in certain designated industries, must electronically submit the summary injury and illness information on an annual basis.
  • Employer responses to any other OSHA inquiries regarding employer injury and illness information must be filed electronically.

Although there was much opposition to this proposed rule from industry, OSHA has indicated it wants to issue the final rule sometime in the spring of 2016.

And to Continue…

Last year, OSHA issued a proposed rule that was designed to clarify an employer’s continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness for the entire five-year period an employer is required to keep such records. This is still on OSHA’s agenda for 2016.  

With this proposal, OSHA is attempting to make the case that the duty to make and keep accurate injury or illness records continues for as long as the employer must retain the records (i.e., the five-year period). The proposal doesn’t request additional compliance requirements but it does go beyond the established statue of not issuing citations beyond six months of when a violation occurred and has the real potential (if it becomes a final rule) for additional citations and penalties to be issued for what would essentially be an administrative task.

Buddy, Can You Spare $12,600?

The days of low OSHA penalties are numbered. Signed into law on November 2, 2015, the Bipartisan Budget Act contained a provision called the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 which requires OSHA to increase the maximum limit for penalties and further allows an annually increase to keep pace with inflation. Previously under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, OSHA was exempted from penalty increases.

The first increase, which is estimated to go into effect in August, will be significant (about 80 percent) because it accounts for inflation adjustments since 1990 and, in terms of dollars, will raise a maximum penalty attached to serious citations from $7,000 to approximately $12,600. The increases will also impact maximum penalties associated with willful and repeat citations going from $70,000 to $126,000. After this initial increase, penalty increases will occur by January 15 of every year based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Enforcement Weighting System

Last fall, OSHA put out a memo that introduced a new metric for counting inspections, known as Enforcement Units, applied in a new Enforcement Weighting System. Previously, OSHA used the number of inspections as the primary metric to measure their enforcement activity. However, under that system, they didn’t take into account those inspections that would require more time and resources which resulted in a lower inspection count for an area or shorter inspection times and less effective inspections in order to show more activity.

The agency also felt that some employers were getting the message that OSHA was unlikely to conduct certain types of inspections. OSHA sees inspections as an important tool used to encourage employers to correct hazards and prevent injuries and illnesses and feels this new enforcement system will better enhance that effort.

Using this new system OSHA has made it clear that it “…will provide all necessary resources, conduct inspections, and issue citations for any sort of serious hazard….”

In other words, where OSHA once measured success by the number of inspections conducted, they will now be looking at the quality of the inspections. What this will mean for companies is the potential for longer inspection times on-site with potentially more inspectors, depending on the initial incident subject. One of the targeted issues called out by OSHA that would get more resources for inspections under the new system was ergonomics, involving musculoskeletal disorders. Companies should expect to see more focus of these inspections over time.

National Emphasis on Amputations in Screen Printing

In June of last year, OSHA updated its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Amputations (CPL 03-00-019) which outlines the policies and procedures OSHA will use to target and inspect companies where equipment hazards are “causing or likely to cause” amputations.

This updated targeting program now specifically lists screen printers (NAICS 323113) as a targeted industry and will cover specific equipment identified in the directive as well as compliance with associated regulations and standards.

The targeted equipment includes, but is not limited to, screen printing presses, and guillotine cutters/trimmers. The associated OSHA regulations include, 29 CFR 1910.147 for Lockout/Tagout, and 29 CFR 1910.212 through 29CFR 1910.219 for Machine Guarding

Any screen printer or industry sector identified by the targeting criteria can expect a programmed NEP inspection, and we have seen an increase since the effective date. Therefore, it’s important to ensure all of your safety programs, procedures and equipment are in place and complaint.

And, as a final reminder, the last segment of the revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012) comes due June 1, 2016, with the requirement of updating and implementing a workplace label system compliant with the new requirements and conducting any additional employee training. It will be here before you know it.

Its early in the year…and as anything related to the government can change, it’s a good bet to keep these changes and proposals in mind when moving forward with your safety program since they can impact you sooner or later and it’s better to be prepared than caught short.