Hazardous businesses – and even seemingly safe job sites – are always under scrutiny, and the federal government could become even more watchful in the next year. President Obama's 2016 budget proposal calls for a seven percent bump in the budget for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an increase that would add 90 full-time positions to the agency. While it may be an uphill battle for proponents to keep the proposal in the budget, safety mangers and other safety-concerned personnel need to keep an eye out for its potential economic and industrial impacts.
One of these impacts would be heightened enforcement of reporting rules new and old. In particular, OSHA expects to receive an additional 50,000 to 75,000 new injury and hospitalization reports in response to the new requirements effective January 1, 2015, which require all employees to report work-related hospital admissions, amputations and eye losses within 24 hours.
In addition to heightened rule enforcement, OSHA is pushing Congress to include the OSH Act in the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act (FCPIA) – a move that could significantly increase the statutory civil penalties for workplace health and safety violations. OSHA has only increased these penalties once in the last 40 years, but coverage under the FCPIA would allow the organization to make yearly adjustments.
Overall, OSHA's budget justifications make its goals quite clear. Even if it doesn't receive any of the additional funding it seeks, here are a few takeaways all employees need to keep in mind:
- OSHA's new record-keeping and reporting rules are already in effect, and it fully expects to respond to the tens of thousands of additional injury reports that will be generated as a result. Safety and human resource personnel must know when to report injuries and document incidents as accurately as possible.
- Whether or not Congress allows for an increase in statutory penalties, OSHA will most likely impose greater penalties through other means. Historically, inspectors have not consistently imposed the maximum penalties when issuing citations. In light of OSHA's clear dissatisfaction with the deterrent effect of its current penalties, compliance officers may be urged to consistently impose the highest possible penalties going forward.
- The most hazardous workplaces will remain a top priority. OSHA will continue to deploy inspectors to businesses and worksites with the highest incident rates, and scrutiny of these sites is expected to rise proportional to funding increases.
How can your organization stay on top of OSHA requirements as the organization becomes more aggressive?
Here are a few ways to improve your company's compliance with safety regulations:
- Track incidents digitally. Timely incident reporting is clearly more important than ever, but manual record-keeping is incredibly time-consuming, cumbersome and error-prone. To make the job easier and the results more reliable, use a digital system to report accidents and illnesses. A digital system will also make it easier to spot trends and identify the most dangerous areas of your facility or job sites.
- Make information readily available. Your employees can't stay safe if they don't understand the hazards they face, and you'll be in hot water if OSHA inspectors deem your company negligent in warning your workers. Keep all of your MSDS, policy and procedural documents up to date, and display them both in print and digitally throughout your worksites.
- Carry out internal audits. One of the best ways to provide for OSHA compliance is to carry out your own audits according to the same or stricter standards. If you take the time to find and eliminate compliance problems before an inspection, you could save quite a bit of time and money in the long run.
- Make sure all your job safety analyses are in order. Haven't looked at those in a while? Download our free guide, Quick Tips for Managing Your JSAs.