What to Expect from OSHA in 2017

With the end of 2016 came many things. Of course we say hello to 2017, but we also start this year with a new President of the United States and many new members of our government. Under President Obama, a number of regulatory initiatives were achieved, including a rule on crystalline silica, an electronic submission of injury/illness data, and an increase in penalties from OSHA citations. The election of now President Donald Trump brings questions of what 2017 will bring for industry, employers, and the occupational safety and health policies and regulations across the board. I will go over what OSHA has published as its plans going forward in 2017, without the unknowns of a new administration. Keep in mind that some items may be moved on aggressively by OSHA before the new administration has time to step in and negate them.

Revised Recordkeeping Regulation

The revised recordkeeping rule is merely an update of the recordkeeping requirements that have been in place for years, requiring employers to record injuries and illnesses and to notify OSHA based on the severity of the incident. The revision to this rule has a couple of parts. One aspect is a quicker reporting requirement to OSHA for fatalities (within 8 hours) and for any workplace incident that results in hospitalization, amputation, or loss of eye (within 24 hours). Along with these quicker reporting times for individual incidents, some industries and employers will be required to report their annual OSHA 300 forms directly to OSHA. This requirement is as follows:

Employer Size/Industry Required Record Date
250 or more employees 300, 300A, 301 July 1, 2017*
20-249 employees in specified industries 300A July 1, 2017**
* Starting in 2019 these facilities will need to submit forms by March 2nd
** Starting in 2018 these facilities will need to submit forms by March 2nd

This rule not only impacts the reporting timeline for employers, it will also limit the abilities to implement employee safety incentive programs and post-accident drug testing. According to those whom compiled this rule, incentive programs are considered to curb employees from reporting incidents if people think that they could lose potential bonuses. Also, the rule considers post-accident drug testing as a potential form of retaliation on the part of the employer. I am sure that many of you reading this have personal experience on the use of post-accident drug testing, both positive and negative. With this rule, the responsibility is put on the employer to show that the use of drugs or alcohol could be the reason for the accident before testing is conducted.

Going forward, employers may have to consider altering incentive programs to lean toward compliance with policies and training programs, instead of rewarding the idea of days without a reported injury. Employers may also need to change the reporting policies to allow for the employee to report without the fear of retaliation and to have post-accident drug testing to not be mandatory.

 Increased Penalty Fines

As I mentioned earlier in this article, we have a new President, and a new presidential administration will mean some new directions for OSHA. The increase penalties and fines could soon be on the chopping block. For now, the increase in penalties and fines are laid out as follows:

Violation Type Previous $/violation Current $/violation
Serious $7,000 $12,471
Willful $70,000 $124,709
Repleat $70,000 $124,709
Failure to Abate $7,000 $12,471

This fine increase has been labeled a “one-time catch up” to adjust for inflation since 1990, which was the last time the penalty amounts were increased.

Slip, Trip, and Fall

An update to the regulations governing fall protection and walking & working surfaces has been in OSHA’s radar since the 1990’s. The regulation sets new specifications for portable and fixed ladders, scaffolds, and personal fall arrest systems. It specifies requirements for the use of this equipment, guarding around roofs and ladders, and how to establish designated work areas when working on a roof. There are several different deadlines over two decades for employers to meet in order to be in compliance with the regulation. The first deadline is for the training of employees to be completed by May 17, 2017. The last deadline is for full compliance with all fixed ladder construction (both bought and fabricated in-house) and personal fall arrest system integration by November 18, 2036.

Looking Forward

Despite the changes in administration, there are still a number of other action items on the agenda and other emphasis programs in OSHA’s crosshairs. Some of these include combustible dust, modifications to PSM requirements, injury and illness prevention programs, etc. My prediction on how OSHA will move forward under a Trump Whitehouse is with an expansion of state OSHA plans. The development of state OSHA plans gives the state the power to control how the OSH Act is enforced with industries and private employers.

Feel free and 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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