For the first time in over 25 years, OSHA is planning to increase the maximum penalty amounts for cited violations it poses on employers by as much as 80%. This is not a trivial increase. In dollars and cents, the increase will change a maximum penalty for serious or other-than-serious citation from $7,000 to around $12,000 per cited infraction, and a willful or repeat citation from $70,000 to as high as $127,000 per cited infraction. With this increase in max penalties, there will be increased financial risk and liability for each safety violation.
According to OSHA Chief Dr. David Michaels, the former method of inspections penalized those Compliance Officers and Managers that visited larger and more complex facilities. Larger and more complex facilities (i.e. facilities being inspected for Process Safety Management) can take much more time and energy than smaller facilities, while the number of facilities each officer was required to visit stayed constant.
This should come to no surprise that compliance with the Hazard Communication standard, primarily the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), will be an emphasis for OSHA in 2016. The first deadline for conducting training on the new standard for all employees was December 1, 2013. The last deadline for complying with the GHS standard is coming up this June 1, 2016. By then, all employers must have met the training requirements and must have updated Hazard Communication Programs according to the updated standard. More information on the GHS compliance deadlines can be found on the CTI website (conversiontechnology.com).
Since the last deadline for compliance with this standard is coming up, and fines are expected to increase (as mentioned above), it makes sense for employers to expect a focus on compliance with this standard. Based on data from past inspections and citations, it is very likely that OSHA will focus primarily on inadequacies in written programs, proper maintenance of Safety Data Sheets (SDS), proper labeling, and employee training on both the handling of hazardous chemicals as well as on the program itself.
OSHA is proposing an update to its current electronic recordkeeping rule. The new electronic recordkeeping rule would add requirements for electronic submission of injury and illness reports, and some businesses could be required to submit reports as frequently as once per quarter. Stay tuned for updates while the proposed rule moves along the approval pipeline, as this can drastically effect your reporting requirements.
The OSHA updates discussed above are only a small sample of the 2016 agenda for OSHA. We will keep you up-to-date on the priorities of OSHA. Based on what we have discussed in this article, now is a good time to be proactive about the safety culture at your facility, including written programs, employee training, and overall safety awareness and hazard recognition.