OSHA Plans Big Increase in Workplace Health Inspections

If you’ve got workers, keep them safe. The latest federal budget slashed a lot of money from the military. But it fully funded all requested enforcement activities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing workplace safety standards. That said, OSHA has also announced that while it is expanding its enforcement efforts in certain industries, and substantially expanding its workplace health inspection program, some types of site inspections will see reductions. These include safety inspections and state level inspections.

Specifically, the new budget allocates $552.2 million to OSHA, and $208 million specifically to support enforcement activities. That represents an overall OSHA enforcement activities budget increase of $17 million over the prior year.

OSHA has indicated it will focus enforcement issues on more dangerous industries, focusing on preventing the most common causes of workplace fatalities:

  • Falling
  • Electrocution
  • ‘Struck-by’ accidents
  • ‘Caught in between’ accidents

OSHA also plans to increase scrutiny of these kinds of worksites:

  • Refineries
  • Excavation and trenching
  • Primary metal industries
  • Sites that contain isocyanates
  • Hazardous machinery
  • Nursing and care homes
  • Combustible dust
  • Shipbreaking,
  • Worksites that include crystalline silica
  • Worksites that contain lead
  • Worksites that contain hexavalent chromium

As part of this effort, OSHA stated it plans to conduct nearly 40,000 site inspections during the fiscal year 2014, already underway as of October 2013. Of these, 31,400 will be safety inspections, and 7,850 of them will be health inspections, according to the agency. Overall, the agency plans to conduct 450 more health inspections in FY 2014 than it did during the previous fiscal year, but fewer inspections overall, according to reporting from the Society for Human Resource Management. OSHA is projecting that it will actually conduct 2,200 fewer safety inspections than they did last year.

The reason: OSHA cites man-hour allocation issues. Some site inspections are much more man-hour intensive than others, and therefore much more costly to perform. OSHA is seeking to get more bang for the buck invested.

OSHA’s force of compliance officers is likely to increase scrutiny not just on simple fixes, but to conduct more involved compliance checks, such as process safety management, PSM Covered Chemical Facilities, Petroleum Refinery Process Safety Management programs, bloodborne pathogen countermeasures, and respiratory protection protocols.

State-Level Inspections to Decrease

OSHA is projecting fewer inspections by state-level occupational safety agencies, and attributes the decline to state budget problems. OSHA projects that the 27 state-plan agencies will perform about 50,350 inspections, which represents a decline of about 2 percent compared to 2012.

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