Which companies will receive OSHA inspections in Fiscal Year 2020 (which began Oct. 1, 2019)?
No one can provide an exact list.
But OSHA’s FY 2020 budget request, updated Field Operations Manual (FOM) for its inspectors and a statement about its new weighting system for inspections provide enough clues so companies know whether they’re more likely to be inspected.
Here’s what we now know:
4 inspection priorities
The FOM, which took effect Sept. 13, 2019, lists four priority levels
- First: Imminent Danger – conditions where a danger exists that could reasonably cause death or serious physical harm
- Second: Fatality/Catastrophe – OSHA defines catastrophe as the hospitalization of an employee, an amputation or physical loss of an eye
- Third: Complaints/Referrals, and
- Fourth: Programmed Inspections – these occur where known hazards (combustible dust, chemical processing, falls in construction) exist.
Exceptions can be allowed by OSHA Area Directors due to a National, Regional or Local Emphasis Program, and follow-up or monitoring inspections.
On the other hand, companies that participate in voluntary compliance programs (Consultation, SHARP and VPP) may be exempt from programmed inspections. Companies that are part of OSHA Strategic Partnerships or Alliances are not exempt.
OSHA Weighting System
Beginning in 2015, OSHA counted how many inspections it completed using a weighting system.
Some more complex, time-consuming inspections received multipliers (enforcement units, or EUs). This helped OSHA prioritize its limited resources, including inspectors.
For the first time since 2015, the system has been modified. The OSHA Weighting System (OWS) for FY 2020 took effect Oct. 1, 2019.
OSHA is putting less emphasis on how long an inspection takes and more on other factors, including the impact of inspections and agency priorities.
One of those priorities: Site-Specific Targeting, which focuses inspections on high injury rate facilities.
Here’s the new OWS:
- Group A, criminal and significant cases (those where fines total more than $180,000): 7 EUs
- Group B, fatalities and catastrophes (hospitalization, amputation, physical loss of an eye), chemical plant National Emphasis Program, process safety management inspections: 5 EUs
- Group C, the “fatal four” – caught-in, electrical, fall and struck-by hazards: 3 EUs
- Group D, priority hazards: amputation, combustible dust, heat, non-PEL overexposures, workplace violence, permit-required confined space, air contaminants, noise and site-specific targeting: 2 EUs
- Group E: everything else: 1 EU.
Construction in the crosshairs
In its FY 2020 budget plan, OSHA said the new OWS “is expected to yield a slightly greater percentage of construction inspections for FY 2020.”
Even a “slight” increase in construction inspections is significant. OSHA already monitors the industry more closely because construction accounts for 7% of employment but 20% of worker fatalities.
OSHA said that it will continue its National Emphasis Program related to trenching and excavation because they remain common hazards that cause injuries and deaths in construction.
OSHA identifies construction worksites for inspection under its C-Target program. Area Directors identify worksites four times a year using resources such as local permits.