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Is The Sleeping Giant – Known as Osha – Finally Waking Up?

Due to OSHA’s failures to implement their own programs, companies will now feel more pressure and harsher punishments. The Inspector General of the Department of Labor found that OSHA, under its Enhanced Enforcement Program, failed to conduct necessary inspections and enforce the enhanced settlement provisions for ninety-seven percent of the employers that qualified under it. Additionally, they did not ensure employers qualified were tagged for the program, did not inspect all worksites of companies where safety issues were uncovered, did not consistently conduct follow-up inspections, and maintained no specific criteria for issuing notifications where safety issues were found.

The Enhanced Enforcement Program has been in place for six years. Only now is it being recognized that the plan is flawed. To remedy this, OSHA created the Severe Violators Inspection Program, which will focus on these issues at larger employers. The new program will consist of mandatory follow-up inspections by OSHA inspectors, more inspections of other locations of a company, a more comprehensive investigation of an employer’s history for systemic problems that could trigger further inspections and a continual review of the program to make necessary improvements.

OSHA will now also be looking at whether appropriate referrals are being made to the Justice Department for potentially criminal cases for prosecution and how to best work together to prosecute those cases. While there is still much to be worked out in the new program, the main goal is to ensure noncompliant employers are targeted for additional enforcement action.

Historically, OSHA focused on remedies after accidents or fatalities. At that point, willful, repeated and egregious violations are looked at and broad settlements are reached. Now, because OSHA has been found so lacking in their duty to enforce and ensure compliance, companies could face more stringent inspections and harsher punishments than ever before.

Whether or not this new program succeeds will be determined by the individual investigators. If they are mindful of following OSHA’s own standards and procedures in following up with companies and ensuring safety compliance, employers will start to see a nation-wide difference. While safety is of top importance, it is unfortunate that OSHA’s own failings will result in enhanced penalties when employer mistakes happen.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or (203) 965-0560.