Safety and OSHA News

Top 10 ways new OSHA changes will affect you

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The head of OSHA says after 40 years, the agency needs a fundamental transformation in the way it addresses workplace hazards, and its relationship to employers and workers. David Michaels says it’s time for OSHA to “take a different road.”

The statement comes in a document distributed to OSHA employees, OSHA at 40: New Challenges and New Directions.

Michaels says OSHA will focus on nine key areas. You can read those in Michaels’ letter (PDF).

Instead of restating those here, we looked through the document to find the top 10 ways these new directions for OSHA will affect U.S. businesses:

  1. More inspections. OSHA has received a larger budget and has hired more inspectors. And the hiring of new inspectors isn’t over. Also, the agency is shifting personnel away from its cooperative programs and toward enforcement.
  2. Larger fines. Even though Congress hasn’t passed legislation to increase the maximums for OSHA fines, the agency believes it can raise fines itself by changing the way it calculates them. Example: Now companies face a more expensive repeat fine if the same or similar violation is found within a three-year period. OSHA is looking into extending that to five years.
  3. Regulation by shaming. OSHA hopes public condemnation of business activities that result in serious injury or death will act as a deterrent. The agency will issue more hard-hitting press releases that explain clearly why an employer faced a large fine.
  4. Inspectors will interview employees. In every inspection, OSHA compliance officers will talk to workers privately and confidentially to find out if companies are recording injuries as required.
  5. More checks on employee training. OSHA says its inspectors will check whether required training is conducted in a language that workers can understand.
  6. Injury and Illness Prevention Programs required. OSHA says American workplaces need to undergo a paradigm shift, with employers going beyond simply meeting OSHA standards. OSHA wants companies to implement risk-based workplace prevention programs that uncover hazards before they lead to an injury or death.
  7. Closer looks at safety incentive programs. OSHA says some employers, particularly those in high-hazard industries, have implemented programs, inadvertently or by design, that discourage injury reporting. Example: Everyone will get a steak dinner or a bonus if we have no recordable injuries this year. OSHA inspectors will look into whether such programs have caused injuries to go unrecorded.
  8. New regulations will be developed more quickly. OSHA is looking into several ways to speed up development of new standards, which, the way things stand now, is a lengthy process. On the agency’s to-do list is the exploration of alternatives to creating new regulations hazard-by-hazard. In the meantime, OSHA wants to increase collaboration with other worker protection agencies, such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, and EPA.
  9. Electronic workplace records to be required. OSHA wants to complete its transition to electronic data collection. That will force companies to follow certain OSHA standards to report workplace injuries and illnesses electronically.
  10. State OSHA programs will be strengthened. Currently, 22 states have their own OSHAs for private and public employees, and another five have safety agencies for public employees only. OSHA says it wants to ensure penalties assessed by state OSHAs are as stringent as those issued by the federal agency.

Where do you think OSHA should focus its efforts? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  • George Colby

    It is very dissapointing that OSHA is going back to a stringent enforcement model, rather than an emphasis cooperative programs. Cooperative programs are a sign of achievement (VPP, SHARP, etc.) and usually lead to cost savings while having an excellent safety performance record. Rigid enforcement will simply put more strain on businesses, essentially ‘raising the safety tax’ for american business in an already volatile economy.

    Overall, most of these new changes will affect our small business (175 employees) very little. We are currently in the midst of applying for membership in SHARP (small business VPP) and it would be very dissapointing to get from 90% compliance to 100% compliance, lower our injury rates, and change our safety culture only to be penalized the same as companies who don’t care.

  • EHSGuy

    OSHA is no longer anything but a political organization. They hide behind the mission of safety when their only goal is expansion of their and government’s power and ability to raise money. They should be refocused alright. Their mission is and should be to help business be safe. Instead they decree thousands of regulations written by ivory tower, deskbound eggheads who couldn’t manage a lemonade stand much less a multimillion dollar business. It’s time the American business community stood up and refocused OSHA by electing a Congress that will slash their budget by 75% or so till they get the message – No Regulation without the Solution.

  • martin

    I wish I could say it better than EHSGuy…….
    He is right on the money (pun intended)!
    The Orwellian dream of the elite class has come true.

  • http://Thewitmergroup.com tim

    Even though I would not have totally agreed with EHS ten years ago, unfortunately today George and EHS are correct. There was a time when OSHA’s area offices (at least in our area) worked with you to eliminate hazards on jobsites. With the current administration those times appear to be history. Figure out where the deep pockets are and see what you can extract from them is the new directive.

  • SafeBob

    Working under the new OSHA model, it looks like the best workplace safety programs will be defined as those that deal out the most severe punishments to employees who do not work safely. Several descriptions come to mind: Draconian, Medieval, Barbaric, Backward…

  • Steve

    More jobs lost overseas!

  • George Colby

    Take that one step further Steve: more companies closing in America, due to it’s own Government’s Stupidity.

  • safety1

    We have a shameful record on workplace safety compared with many other developed countries. OSHA is generally underfunded and understaffed so that inspections usually only take place AFTER an accident or fatality. OSHA standards in most cases are way out of date. (Compare OSHA press guarding standards with today’s ANSI or European standards.) Even after a fatality, the fines are amazingly low — $75,000! — and then often reduced on appeal.

  • DMac

    A few of the top 10 list demonstrate how antiquated OSHA really is. Our company has for several years now focused on what happens on the floor as opposed to a signed document. OSHA now is finally thinking about prevention? However they are doing this by Command and Control Management Style…Tell me how that works?

  • Susan

    Words are cheap. I applaud small businesses that are making good faith effort to follow OSHA guidelines and have a safe workplace. Large businesses have too much resources and means to hide stuff… Hope this makes a difference..

  • AverageJoe

    Another hammer fisted measure by our government to run companies and jobs out of this country. The statement made by osha that they are reducing the cooperative relationships and increasing the enforcement aspect is a giant red flag. This current government and administration has clearly made a deliberate effort to reduce U.S. business and jobs in order to strengthen dependancy on government welfare, and this is just another method to hide it under the false guise of individual safety! I am not a business owner, or even employed at management level, but I am, however, an employee who can see the writting on the wall. We have to get ahold of the musings of our government and return to self governance, and it can only be done by us individuals whom “they” think they are protecting!

  • George Colby

    Excuse me, safety1, how is America’s safety record worse than other developed countries? Show me some numbers (and a credible source.)

  • SafeGuam

    I am for protecting our employees and I know that all that is in the Safety World does. Unfortunately, this new enforcement program seems to be a bit out of the rhelm of protecting the small businesses as well. I understand that not all companies follow or at the very least keeps good records of their safety incidents but, the punishment will either kill the business or put additional stress to an already struggling business. I would rather see more assistance programs. All my OSHA training has come by way of paying for it. Wake up OSHA and smell the coffee… Think the outcry is for “HELP” not “FINES”…

  • PO’d Safety Guy

    Check out #5. Now I have to 1) learn about six new languages so I can be sure all our employees understand the training, 2) hire interpreters so I can be sure all our employees understand the training, 3) use bi-lingual employees as interpreters and hope all our employees understand the training, or 4) hire only English-speaking employees. The problem with that is, ALL our injuries this year are to English-speaking employees! While they understand, they just don’t get it. Our non-English people may not understand, but they get it. There’s a big difference.
    Regardless, all of these are intended to put the screws to you.

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  • http://none Danes Tigali

    All industries regardless of size,Safety is and MUST be the priority not to be kept supressed lack of drive by the respective managements of even bigger reknown organisations & mines and the governments must be serious in the world and the least developed countries as seen the least are exposed to very hi risk.

    OHSA – Must be recognised internationaly & Audits must be ligaly imposed to prevent lives at risk.

    Companies & organisation vilate these rules for the sake of expences, even if they have written policies in place they fail to impose it.

  • Heidi

    OSHA has become another money grab with little impact on actual safety, their focus has become how can we fine you, and how can we get more money. There are plenty of laws in place to protect affected people under any circumstance–we don’t need OSHA compliance. If the administration would trim the agency to the Technical Assistance side of the agency based on the compliance rules they would be doing something. If under the Technical Assistance guidelines, if there is an Imminent Danger or Serious condition and the company does not make the correction then take action of some sort like incarceration for the CEO, OSHA would have credibility and impact on the safety of the worker.

  • JoeSafety

    I think our company does a pretty good job with safety. Our incident rate and injuries are low compared to our industry average, and our dollars spent om injuries is relatively low. On the surface it would appear we have no fear of OSHA. We do fear OSHA because we know them to be unreasonable and focused only on collecting a fine. I have been around long enough to remember the old OSHA which worked cooperatively with business. They used to hold free training seminars and have an active consultation branch; we weren’t afraid to call them because we knew they would offer help. Well, the seminars are gone and the consultation service is now a Trojan Horse. OSHA is necessary since there will always be businesses that don’t care about the safety of their workers. But I think the majority of businesses DO care and OSHA needs to work WITH these companies rather than against them. It will take a louder voice than your and mine to make this happen. Write your Congressional reps and express your concerns. Which brings to mind the fact that I see a lot of press about the business community expressing concern over lost jobs, high taxes, government regulations in general, but I never see anything about the overbearing monster OSHA has become. Why is that?

  • Itsabouttime

    I certainly do understand the concern expressed here about the strain on small business with compliance,,however, coming from a 15 year safety professional,,who here can tell me how many small businesses are worth the life of an employee who is simply coming to work to try to make a life for his or her family? One? Two? Ten? How many people have to be sacrificed to make sure small businesses stay in business? We are missing the boat friends. The newest standard (other than the changes to the crane standard) is on hexavalent-chromium. Now that certainly only affects a small percentage of small businesses. Beyond that, the vast majority of the OSHA standards were in place when many, many of the small businesses came into being. This all started in 1972, not 2002. One of the costs of being in business is compliance with OSHA, the EPA, perhaps the SBA, accounting standards, etc. All factors of the cost of a business must be considered before that business is made a reality. In my opinion, all too often, where the shortcuts come in a small business model is in the realm of safety; I dare say, in most cases, worker safety is never even mentioned. Businesses don’t want to hire safety professionals to help them get safety programs set up; they don’t want to pay for safety training materials and time to comply, but they then want to sit back and complain about how mean OSHA and the government is when they enforce rules that were in place when the business started. Who is really to blame here,,,let’s put this back in the right perspective. The bottom line is that the American worker has a RIGHT to expect that they will be given the information, training and work materials they need to conduct their jobs safely. No employee signs up for a job with the expectation that they may be the unlucky person who loses their eyesight, hearing, fingers, toes or their life as a part of their job. I say kudos to OSHA for finally standing up and doing what is RIGHT by the American worker. Those wanting to start new businesses need to start understanding that they MUST include provisions for providing a safe workplace for their employees from the start. Playing catch-up is painful, and causes a lot of the whining that is happening now. With the knowledge of the length of time the OSHA standards have been in place, I find it difficult at best to feel sorry for any business that made the conscious choice to not take safety factors into consideration when they started their business and nurtured it into a viable business. Those who did not do this are now paying the price and expecting sympathy from me; sorry, I don’t buy it one bit.

  • http://none Guy Smith

    I’ll not mention the name of the company I worked for in 1964, but the safety program was a joke. I was asked, in my employment interview, whether I knew the safety rules for the job for which I was applying. Naturally, I answered yes, and I never received any sort of safety training during my employment. In my first few weeks on the job, I was instructed to open the 20 kV power supply cabinet to check for overload flags. I took the grounding rod from the door and began “grounding” the capacitors but after “grounding” several of them, I noticed that the end of the ground cable was on one of my feet. That was only the first of a number of life threatening situations I encountered there.

    I thought OSHA was a great idea until the the agency began operation by going after the company that arguably had the best safety record in the world – Bell Telephone.

    I have seen little in the intervening years to improve my opinion of OSHA. I believe OSHA needs to concentrate on real safety issues rather than whether ladders are OSHA approved.

  • PO’d Safety Guy

    Guy Smith – Nice accounting of a situation that made OSHA necessary. I totally agree with your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.