For the 2019 year, OSHA has some notable updates in the areas of enforcement activities and recommended reduction efforts for training programs, along with the elimination of an agency board. The new annual budget for OSHA is $557,000,000, which is 5% more than the previous year of $531,500,000. This new budget will add 26 additional compliance officers and five full-time whistleblower investigators. Reduction areas include a severe decrease in funding to the Susan B. Harwood Training Program that has been available since 1991. This program provides training and education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities and rights. Target audiences include underserved, low-literacy, and high-hazard industry workers and employers. OSHA has also requested to eliminate the Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The CSB is an independent federal agency founded in 1998 charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.
The OSHA enforcement emphasis programs have been updated and have changed as well. These emphasis programs provide OSHA with a road map for enforcement activities including programmed inspections of facilities and job sites in targeted industries that are considered higher risk – meaning they produce more injuries, hazards, employee complaints, citations, etc. The following is a list of the current emphasis programs:
- Federal OSHA
- Combustible Dust
- Hazardous Machinery and Amputation
- Hexavalent Chromium
- Process Safety Management
- Regional/State OSHA
- Noise Exposures
- Heat Stress
Federal OSHA has also adjusted their citations and penalties dollar amounts starting in January 2019. The average penalty amount for each serious violation issued has gone up significantly each year starting in 2009 at $970 to $5,016 in 2018. The new maximum penalty amount for serious violations is now $13,260 per violation while the penalty for willful or repeated violations is $132,598 per violation. Also note that these citations and penalties can apply to different facilities within the same company.
OSHA’s guidance and interpretation of workplace safety incentive programs and post-incident drug & alcohol testing has changed over the last year as well. Currently, workplace safety incentive programs are 100% allowed by OSHA if employees feel free to report injuries and there are no restrictions for incident reporting. If a company bases their incentive award on so many days without a workplace injury, then they must be able to show or prove that the organizational culture supports immediate reporting and has the tools and processes in place for employees to use.
Regarding post-incident drug & alcohol testing, OSHA now allows this type of testing to evaluate the root cause of a workplace incident where the employer tests all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, not just the employees who reported the injuries or were directly involved with the incident. In summary, OSHA’s expectation is that employers will structure their incentive and testing programs in a way that will not affect employees from wanting and/or needing to report injuries and incidents that have occurred.
Finally, the last update is in regards to the OSHA 300 recordkeeping and reporting. Annual submission of injury records done electronically on March 2 with the previous year’s injury data now only require the submission of the OSHA 300A Form (Summary of Work-Related Injuries & Illnesses). The OSHA 300 Injury & Illness Log is no longer required to be submitted annually. As a reminder, the deadline for annual submission has been moved up from December to March of the following year. Other reporting requirements include contacting OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality and within 24 hours of an amputation, loss of an eye, or injuries resulting in hospitalization.
With the integration of modern technology increasing rapidly, are drones the next step for OSHA? In a 2018 memo, OSHA stated that they may use a drone during an inspection of an area that is inaccessible or dangerous for inspectors. Keep in mind that OSHA must obtain the employer’s express consent prior to use and onsite personnel must be notified pre-launch of the aerial inspection. More updates to follow on this.