What to Expect From OSHA in 2016


Now that 2015 has come to a close and 2016 is upon us, we will explore the ever evolving world of occupational health and safety and go through some of the upcoming regulation changes and emphasis priorities from OSHA in 2016.
2016 will bring some updated regulations, updated emphasis programs, and new methods for inspections and citations that are designed to allow for high value inspections of complex facilities and processes.

OSHA to Significantly Increase Fines
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.

This fine increase is being labeled as a “one-time catch up” provision to reflect economic changes due to inflation since 1990, which was the last time the penalty amounts were increased. Even though this fine increase is being called a “one-time catch up,” it can be expected that fines increase annually with inflation.

OSHA’s New Inspection Protocol
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.

OSHA has announced a new method of enacting “Enforcement Units” that assigns greater value to complex inspections that may require more time and resources. The key to this new protocol is that the more complex inspections, like a chemical processing plant, will allocate more enforcement units to an inspector than a simpler review (i.e. reviewing the electrical wiring systems at a scrap yard).

It is expected that OSHA will increase its inspections at PSM facilities and chemical plants as well as conduct more inspections involving chemical handling in general. No matter what sector of industry your facility operates in, if an inspector does show up at your door, there is a good chance that the inspector will spend more time assessing your facility than they previously would have.

Hazard Communication Compliance
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.

Please make sure that your facility is following the guidelines set by the Hazard Communication regulations and that all of your employees, both permanent and temporary, are properly trained and comprehend OSHA’s requirements and changes with this standards.

Electronic Injury Reporting and Recordkeeping
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.

Be On the Lookout
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.

Feel free to contact CTI if you have any questions regarding the updated OSHA standards or if you would like to discuss how to get your facility into compliance with OSHA standards and beyond.

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