April 28, 2010

In This Update
RBA May HSE Training
The "New OSHA" View from the Trenches
OSHA Issues New Penalty Policy
NIOSH Director Highlights Health Care Law Impact on Wellness
Working in the Dark
OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).
Quick Links
Chip DawsonThis health, safety and environment electronic update comes from Chip Dawson and the Rochester Business Alliance as a service to member organizations.
RBA May HSE Training
OSHA's on a tear and they are getting tough on any employer who doesn't get it. This means that employers must know what to do and then do it well. And, when employers "get it," it has to be management and everyone throughout the ranks of the organization. No longer is safety "done" by one person.
In practical terms, if your management team is ignorant of the safety management process and your supervisors leave safety to "someone else," the time you have to get things in place is running very short.
Here's your solution. The Rochester Business Alliance top-rated safety management series is running the week of May 24. You'll find Leading the Safety Process (created especially for the management team) on Monday and Friday mornings (May 24 & 28) and OSHA Recordkeeping (a hot list item for OSHA right now) on Tuesday morning with Safety Committee Operations (newly revised) on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday (May 26) all day features Managing the Emergency and Accident Investigation Fundamentals (complete with training on the TOR root cause analysis process) on Thursday morning (May 27).
To register, contact Barb Cutrona, VP of business information, training, and events, at 256-4642.
The "New OSHA" View from the Trenches
At a recent trade association meeting in Florida, Mark Davis, the assistant area director for OSHA's Jacksonville office, gave his view - most likely typical of the view of many OSHA career folks - of the changes taking place in the agency. ISHN magazine reported on his remarks and here's the gist of the message.
"No new marching orders - we've always done strict enforcement." (See "New Penalty Policy" below for some recently-released orders.) Dr. Michaels, the Assistant Secretary for OSHA, is "asking for field input - he's good about getting people involved." Dr. Michaels (an occupational health professor) is really starting to emphasize health...and most of the standards-setting work revolves around occupational health risks. It's the rebirth of the health side of OSHA. OSHA is also bringing renewed emphasis on the hierarchy of controls (which requires engineering controls and administrative controls before PPE).
Also coming will be "recordkeeping inspections like you've never seen. We're digging through everything (in recordkeeping inspections) and strict enforcement will be the order of the day." There are many new compliance officers who will be going by the book on overall enforcement.
OSHA Issues New Penalty Policy
After determining that OSHA's penalties are too low to have an adequate deterrent effect, the Agency is changing the Field Operations Manual as it covers penalty determination. The changes include:
  • Time required for a good history reduction increases to five years from three.
  • A poor history for the past five years will bring a 10 percent increase in the penalties.
  • Repeat violations will be considered back five years rather than three.
  • Area directors can offer penalty reductions up to 30 percent, but those over 30 percent must go to the Regional Administrator
  • SVEP violations (see below) will be treated as individual violations rather than grouped.
NIOSH Director Highlights Health Care Law Impact on Wellness
According to Dr. John Howard, the new health care bill signed into law on March 23 authorizes many new programs targeting prevention and wellness. Included in these programs is the authority for CDC to conduct research and provide technical assistance related to employer-based wellness programs. The bill directs the CDC Director to:
  • Provide employers with technical assistance, consultation, tools, and other resources to evaluate employer-based wellness programs including evaluating such programs as they relate to changes in employees' health status, absenteeism, productivity, medical costs, and the rate of workplace injury.
  • Build evaluation capacity among workplace staff by training employers on how to evaluate employer-based wellness programs utilizing mechanisms such as web portals, call centers, etc.
  • Within two years, conduct a national worksite health policies and programs survey to assess employer-based health policies and programs followed by a report to Congress with recommendations for the implementation of effective employer-based health policies and programs.
For a more complete look at Dr. Howard's blog, click here.
Working in the Dark
The folks at Circadian Technologies who deal with shift work issues were asked about the wisdom of keeping control rooms fairly dark both day and night. According to Circadian®, it's quite common, especially in control room environments, for workers to turn down the lights because of the discomfort associated with glaring lights on tired eyes.

So how does a darkened work environment affect human performance? The simple answer is that performance tends to worsen the darker the work environment gets, especially when working the night shift. Research shows that, compared to bright rooms, dark rooms result in workers having decreased alertness, decreased vigilance, and reduced cognitive performance.

To read more information on the subject from Circadian, click here.
OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)
In keeping with the increased emphasis at OSHA on strict enforcement (see comments above), the agency has announced SVEP. The new Severe Violator Enforcement Program is intended to focus OSHA enforcement resources on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law. This supplemental enforcement tool includes increased OSHA inspections in these worksites, mandatory follow-up inspections, and inspections of other worksites of the same employer where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present. The program replaces OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP). SVEP will become effective by early June. For a PDF copy of the SVEP Instruction, click here.
The "background" section on page 3 of the instruction will tell you what organizations are at greatest risk of enforcement actions.

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