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FDRsafety Newsletter
July 2010
Big changes to OSHA advancing through Congress; employers need to get ready

By Jim Stanley
President, FDRsafety

With all the initiatives to toughen OSHA enforcement that have emerged in the past year, it sometimes can be difficult to keep track of everything. But employers need to pay especially close attention to a bill currently moving through Congress and start to get ready for the changes it will bring if it passes - which it appears to have a chance of doing.

Originally introduced as a standalone measure called the "Protecting America's Workers Act," the bill has now been merged with one that will make changes to the Mine Safety and Health Act. That combined bill has a lot of political power because of strong pressure to toughen mine safety enforcement after an accident in West Virginia that took 29 lives earlier this year.

What does it mean for employers if this "OSHA reform" passes?

  • Officers and directors will be subject to criminal prosecution if the company knew about an OSHA violation that led to serious bodily harm or death to an employee. This suggests that company officers and directors need to insure that there is a clear process for information about safety practices and performance to flow up the line.

  • Whistleblowers will receive added protections and it may be much more difficult to discipline a weak performer who lodges a safety complaint. Employers need to be sure that they fully document any disciplinary actions. (I should add that I am for protecting workers who are being discriminated against for lodging legitimate safety complaints.)

  • Employers will no longer get an automatic stay of abatement when they are cited for a serious, willful or repeated violation. Employers will have to make a request to the Occupational Safety and Health Commission for the stay. And if it is denied, a hearing on the issues must be conducted within 15 days.
A hearing on the bill last week before the House Labor and Education Committee illustrated the deep differences between OSHA and employer groups.

David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, testified that the increased penalties contained in the bill were needed to give employers an incentive to obey OSHA requirements.

On the other hand, Jonathan Snare, representing an employer group called the Coalition of Workplace Safety, said that the penalties would do nothing to increase workplace safety and health.

The two also testified about the bill's whistleblower and abatement provisions.

For additional details on what happened at the hearing, see my blog post. And for more information about the contents of the bill, see another one of my posts.

Jim Stanley is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. He may be contacted at (513) 317-5644 or jstanley@fdrsafety.com.
Meanwhile, OSHA is moving forward administratively to toughen enforcement

By Jim Stanley
President, FDRsafety

In the previous article, I said that employers need to get ready for the possible passage of changes to the OSHA Act. But the horse has already left the barn on other OSHA enforcement initiatives, which the agency has put into effect administratively.

Every company under OSHA jurisdiction should be reviewing its safety and health program in light of the following:
  • A crackdown on recordkeeping: A dramatic increase in OSHA enforcement. For example, OSHA recently tagged Lowe's with $110,000 in proposed penalties for continually failing to document and report employee injuries and illnesses at two stores.

  • Ergonomics: Increased enforcement under Section 5(A)(1) along with new recordkeeping requirements.

  • Contractor safety: A federal appeals court last year upheld OSHA's authority to hold controlling employers responsible for the safety actions of other contractors on their sites.

  • Penalties: OSHA has taken administrative actions to increase penalties from an average of $1,000 per violation to $3,000 to $4,000.

  • Training: OSHA is instructing its inspectors to issue "serious" citations if a "reasonable person" would conclude that safety training has not been provided to employees in a format which they are "capable of understanding."

  • Creation of a Severe Violators Enforcement Program.  If a company is cited under this program, which provides for increased penalties, OSHA is saying it may conduct inspections at all of the firm's locations nationwide.

  • OSHA has called for creation of an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Companies would be required to create safety programs that meet OSHA guidelines (I2P2).

If you are a CEO or Operations Manager and have not conducted a meeting to review these issues with staff, I encourage you to do so immediately.  Like a good emergency plan, it is too late to start the process when the emergency occurs.  Ditto if and when OSHA shows up on your doorstep.

Ask these two questions:

  1. Will your organization pass the test of increased scrutiny today?

  2. Do you have a system such that the training, controls and programs in place today will sustain themselves, allowing senior management the opportunity to monitor safety performance as they do any other facet of the business?
If you have questions about how the changes at OSHA will affect your business, ask us.

For more details on actions companies should take, see my article "How to meet the challenge of increased OSHA Enforcement."
Attend Jim Stanley's audio conference: 
'OSHA Contractor Crackdown'

Thanks to a federal appeals court ruling, OSHA can now cite employers or controlling contractors for the safety violations of subcontractors. On Tuesday, Aug. 10, FDRsafety President Jim Stanley is offering a live audio conference on this issue in partnership with HR Hero, a leading provider of educational material for HR professionals. Jim has long experience with OSHA, having served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, the number 2 job at the agency.

On the program, you can learn:
  • Five tips for creating an effective contractor safety program, including how to:
    • Document
    • Train employees
    • Analyze accidents
    • Conduct mock OSHA audits
    • Go beyond OSHA requirements to ensure your safety program passes muster, including motivational training
  • How to avoid increased OSHA penalties and prepare for the new safety enforcement push

  • What the"Severe Violator Enforcement Program"means for employers and controlling contractors, including the industries mostly likely to be targeted. He'll show you how to make sure your company isn't viewed as an employer with "indifference" to workplace safety obligations.

This program has been approved for 1.5 recertification credit hours through the HR Certification Institute. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit the HR Certification Institute website at www.hrci.org.

The audio conference will be held Tuesday, August 10

2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Central

12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mountain

11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pacific

How to Register:
Not able to attend this live event?

Order the CD recording and HR Hero will provide audio streaming at no extra cost.

Streaming audio is available 3 days after the audio conference.
A resource for those interested in safety and HR

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In This Issue
Big changes to OSHA advancing through Congress; employers need to get ready
OSHA is moving forward administratively to toughen enforcement
Attend Jim Stanley's audio conference: 'OSHA Contractor Crackdown'
A resource for those interested in safety and HR
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