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Safety Management Insights

Understanding OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program

Posted by Don Brown on Nov 4, 2015 8:30:00 AM

oshaMost companies are doing their due diligence in keeping workers safe—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has even said that the majority of employers are on the right track. Still, more than a few businesses ignore safety regulations and purposely put their employees in danger.

To deal with companies that haven’t taken necessary precautions, OSHA uses its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which subjects violators to more frequent follow-up inspections. The program has recently expanded in response to increasing violations, and it’s more important than ever for employers to understand their obligations. Even seemingly cautious companies could fall under closer scrutiny if they don’t follow the right guidelines. These are a few of the most important SVEP measures safety managers and executives need to keep in mind.

Violation Criteria

To be placed on the public list of severe violators, employers must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • A willful or repeated violation leading to an employee’s death or the hospitalization of three or more employees.
  • At least two willful or repeated “high-gravity” violations related to hazards including falls, amputations and trenching.
  • At least three willful or repeated violations related to the potential release of a hazardous chemical.
  • All “egregious” or per-instance citation actions.

Additional Sanctions

What’s the difference between a “severe violator” and a company that falls under more routine OSHA scrutiny? SVEP criteria allow for more extensive sanctions, including the ability to conduct company-wide inspections, mandatory follow-up inspections, enhanced settlement terms and the publication of a press release for every citation. Those enhanced settlement terms may also mandate that employers hire OSHA-approved safety and health consultants, and that they submit quarterly injury and illness logs. Finally, these mandates may apply to corporations, rather than to the individual worksites where the violations occurred.

New Industries

In February, the SVEP expanded to include upstream oil and gas hazards. The recent memorandum states that employees facing these hazards “have experienced a fatality rate that has ranged from five to eight times greater than the national average for all U.S. industries.” Ultimately, this means that employers classified under NAICS codes for Oil and Gas Production Services, Drilling and Well Servicing, and Upstream Oil and Gas will immediately be considered severe violators any time an incident meets one of the SVEP criteria.

Removal Criteria

Once a company becomes a severe violator, it will retain that title for at least three years. To be removed from the list, an employer must:

  • Cease all SVEP-related hazards.
  • Pay all safety-related fines.
  • Complete settlement provisions.

Last but certainly not least, an employer must avoid any more serious citations related to the hazards that landed it in the SVEP in the first place. The clock starts ticking upon the final ruling of a case, and a good three-year track record is needed to return to good standing.

Keeping Compliant

Even if you’re not in danger of an SVEP-worthy inspection, you need to stay on top of your current obligations and future regulations. BasicSafe offers information on how to ace your OSHA audit. Download our guide to find out how to ace yours today!

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