What to Expect From OSHA in 2021

After a difficult year amidst a global pandemic in 2020, we can finally look ahead to a hopefully brighter 2021. A new year always brings changes to health and safety regulations and requirements. On January 19, 2021, James Frederick was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, and will be the acting administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) until a new Director is determined.

One of OSHA’s primary concerns at the start of 2021 has been employee safety relating to COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, OSHA has issued citations with penalties totaling $3,930,381. Common violations found from these inspections include failures to perform the following:

  • Implement a written respiratory protection program;
  • Provide a medical evaluation, fit test, and training on proper use of respiratory equipment;
  • Report an injury, illness, or fatality;
  • Record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms; and
  • Complying with the General Duty Clause.

As we are hopefully approaching the end of the pandemic, it is important to continue to follow CDC guidelines (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html) for preventing the spread of COVID-19. OSHA also has resources available on their website (https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus) for complying with OSHA requirements relating to the coronavirus.

OSHA is continuing to focus on combustible dust hazards at industrial facilities. Facilities are being inspected for housekeeping procedures in areas with combustible dust accumulations, and OSHA is checking if facilities have completed the required dust hazard analysis (DHA) in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Consensus standard NFPA 652 states that a DHA was supposed to be completed by September 7, 2020 for most general industry facilities. Agricultural and food processing facilities refer to NFPA 61 which states that a DHA must be completed by January 1, 2022. Once a DHA is complete, both NFPA 61 and 652 require DHAs to be recertified every five years.

On January 13, 2021 OSHA announced adjustments to penalty amounts for 2021 to increase so as to account for inflation. OSHA’s maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations have been increased to $13,653, and the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations has increased to $134,937. As we begin to return to normal, OSHA will likely begin increasing inspections to ensure compliance with regulations and requirements.

OSHA’s schedule and priorities are always subject to change as the year goes by, but as of now, no significant new changes are in the works for 2021. OSHA will likely continue to perform inspections for safe coronavirus practices, increase workplace inspections, and information requests will be held for potential changes to outdated rules and standards. If you would like help ensuring you are in compliance with all OSHA requirements, including compliance with combustible dust standards and NFPA 652, please contact CTI at (770) 263-6330.

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