Safety and OSHA News

OSHA wants to inspect the smallest businesses

Under most circumstances, OSHA can’t inspect businesses with 10 or fewer employees. The agency wants to change that using language in its fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget.

Currently, OSHA is prohibited from conducting safety and health inspections of businesses with 10 or fewer employees in industry codes that have lower-than-average workplace injury and illness rates.

Why does the agency want more authority to inspect these smaller businesses? OSHA says:

“Neither the number of workers in a business, nor the level of injury and illness rates, are predictive of the potential for high-consequence catastrophic incidents, resulting in multiple casualties and extensive property damage, such as those caused by the West Fertilizer explosion in West, Texas.”

The West Fertilizer explosion in April 2013 killed 14 people, injured more than 150, and damaged or destroyed more than 150 buildings.

West only employed nine workers.

OSHA says it wants to be able to inspect smaller employers covered by OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard or EPA’s Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions – facilities that have the potential for catastrophic incidents.

The proposed budgetary language would exempt small farming operations.

More PSM inspections

OSHA’s budget also notes the agency is moving toward inspections which take more time but may be more likely to prevent injuries and illnesses.

When it comes to inspections, OSHA has always operated under “more are better.”

But not all inspections are created equal. Some take more time to conduct than others:

  • safety inspections average 22 hours
  • health inspections average 34 hours
  • ergonomics inspections can take hundreds of hours, and
  • PSM inspections can take over 1,000 hours.

By conducting more health, ergonomics and PSM inspections, OSHA says it “will see a more effective application of its limited resources.”

Even while making a commitment to conduct these more time-consuming inspections, the total number of employer visits is expected to increase in FY 2015. OSHA plans to conduct 38,250 inspections in FY 2015, an increase of 615 from FY 2014.

On the regulatory front, OSHA predicts it will issue four final rules in FY 2015:

  • Walking Working Surfaces
  • Recordkeeping Modernization
  • Standards Improvement Project Phase IV, and
  • Crane Operator Certification.

FY 2015 starts Oct. 1, 2014.

What do you think about OSHA’s proposals for 2015? Let us know in the comments.

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