Calling it his “big announcement” at the National Safety Council’s annual conference and expo, OSHA administrator David Michaels said the agency is moving to a new enforcement system that will shift inspection resources toward more complex hazards.
The Enforcement Weighting Initiative (EWI) will give area OSHA offices within the federal system “credit” for conducting inspections that require more time and resources, such as those involving:
- musculoskeletal disorders (ergonomic injuries)
- chemical exposures
- workplace violence, and
- process safety management.
Example: Routine safety inspections will count as one unit. Inspections involving one or more of the areas listed above can now count as up to nine units.
Area offices have always had goals for the number of inspections to conduct. As Congress has limited increases in OSHA’s budget, the agency has had to decide how best to use the resources it has.
Under this system, the actual number of inspections are likely to decrease.
“All inspections aren’t equal,” Michaels said at the NSC conference. “Some are complex and require more time and resources. Many of those inspections have the greatest impact.”
Another factor impacting how OSHA allocates its inspection resources is the new injury reporting requirements that went into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Companies still have to report fatalities to OSHA within 8 hours. Now they also have to report any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or physical loss of an eye within 24 hours.
Since the beginning of the year, OSHA has averaged between 200 and 250 of these reports a week.
Do all of these reports lead to an in-person inspection? No. As has always been the case, fatalities definitely will bring an OSHA inspector to a company’s door. Amputations are very likely to also trigger a visit. For hospitalizations, it will depend upon the circumstances. In any case, if OSHA suspects an imminent danger, there will be an inspection.
Companies that don’t get an in-person inspection will get a phone-call referred to as a Rapid Response Inspection. As part of an RRI, a company will have to fill out a form which includes how it has abated the hazard. If OSHA isn’t satisfied with the company’s phone and document response, an in-person inspection may follow.