For the last eight years, OSHA has de-emphasized recordkeeping inspections. That’s about to change.
OSHA is preparing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on recordkeeping. Its targets:
- Companies in high-injury industries with low injury rates. OSHA will check to see that records match reality.
- Incentive programs that encourage employees not to report injuries. Example: The unit with the lowest injury rate for the quarter will win prizes or get a special financial reward.
- Disincentives to report injuries. Example: Workers who report injuries are disciplined or fired.
Speaking at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Safety 2009 conference in San Antonio, acting OSHA administrator Jordan Barab said the agency isn’t opposed to incentive programs, as long as the incentives are for proactive measures.
Barab said he’s somewhat skeptical of behavioral programs that always blame workers for incidents and injuries.
In an interview with SafetyNewsAlert.com after his speech, Barab pointed to the 2005 BP Texas City, TX, disaster in which 15 employees were killed and 170 were injured in an explosion. Barab said the first thing BP did was to fire a bunch of workers “when that was only the tip of the iceberg,” according to an investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
On another topic, Barab said OSHA isn’t eliminating the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). However, he added that the days of OSHA forming alliances with various industry groups instead of enacting new or revising existing standards are over.
When will OSHA have a permanent administrator? Barab said at this point, it looks like it will be fall at the earliest. However, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has told Barab not to wait. When Barab took the position as interim head of OSHA, Solis told him to go full speed ahead on her workplace safety agenda, which includes vigorous enforcement and enactment of new standards. Barab will assume the No. 2 position at OSHA once a permanent administrator is confirmed.
Barab said OSHA will react quickly to injury trends, such as moving inspectors to Texas, starting in July, to counter the high number of construction fatalities in the state (see our earlier story here). “A SWAT team of OSHA inspectors will fan out over Texas,” Barab said, to visit sites in locales where construction fatalities and injuries have been a particular problem.