Beginning January 1, 2015, OSHA changed the game for the reporting of serious workplace injuries. Employers are now required to report all work-related fatalities within eight hours and all inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of learning of the incident. The prior rule only required reporting fatalities resulting from a work-related incident or the in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees as a result of a work-related incident.
Yet, OSHA reports that it only inspects less than 40% of injury and illness reports that have been made pursuant to these new reporting requirements. Indeed, David Michaels,OSHA’s Assistant Secretary, recently reported to Congress that OSHA’s currently available resources only permit it to inspect each American job site once every 140 years.
Perhaps in recognition of its limited funding, earlier this month OSHA announced that it was implementing a tiered inspection system:
Today, OSHA moves to a new enforcement weighting system that assigns greater value to complex inspections that require more time and resources. The new system will allow for more strategic planning and measurement of inspections, and ensure that all workers are equally protected, regardless of the industry they work in. The system assigns “Enforcement Units” to each inspection. Routine inspections count as one unit, while those requiring greater resources — such as those involving musculoskeletal disorders,chemical exposures, workplace violence, and process safety management violations — count as up to nine units. The values are based on historical data and will be monitored and adjusted as necessary.
What does all this mean for American businesses, many of which already struggle with workplace safety compliance, given the myriad rules, regulations, and standards OSHA enforces? Companies need to more prepared than ever for an OSHA inspection. Employers cannot wait until OSHA arrives at the door to prioritize safety compliance. Employers need to get their workplace-safety houses in order now, before OSHA arrives. Otherwise, we won’t be talking about reporting requirements and enforcement priorities, but citations and penalties.