Stung by recent accusations of leniency toward the employers it oversees, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has expanded its injury and illness record-keeping program and has issued an inspection plan aimed at the most dangerous workplaces.
OSHA recently resumed its Injury and Illness Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program (NEP) after a two-month hiatus, with a new focus on manufacturing, larger worksites and employers with higher injury rates than in the initial criteria. Data from the first NEP inspections showed a higher non-compliance rate by manufacturing than by other industries.
NEP, which began in October 2009 and was suspended in July, targets inaccurate recording—mainly underreporting—of occupational injuries and illnesses.
The revision expands jurisdiction to industries listed on BLS tables SNR02 2007 and 2008, including heavy and civil engineering construction and steel manufacturing.
Inspection Rate Criticized
OSHA called the NEP revisions routine, but they also followed a study by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), showing that OSHA’s original NEP had resulted in only 142 inspections in 10 months, with 35% of them in Oregon.
No inspections were conducted in high-hazard petroleum refineries, oil and gas extraction operations, chemical manufacturing, shipbuilding facilities, paper mills, lumber and wood product manufacturing, and pipeline services, PEER reported.
PEER’s report said NEP had been “plagued by a poor design and anemic implementation” and noted “huge geographic gaps” in enforcement.
DART Rates Expanded
OSHA is also modifying the so-called DART (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) rate to focus on establishment reporting rates that are just below the cut-off rate used by OSHA to compile its primary inspection targeting list under the Site-Specific Targeting (SST) program. The new requirements eliminate the DART rate cap of 4.2, with a new inspection DART target rate between 4.2 and 8.0.
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels says he is committed to “ensuring that OSHA recordkeeping requirements are met in the nation’s workplaces and that injury and illness data reported by employers are accurate and not influenced by improper incentive or disincentive programs."
The NEP, re-released on Sept. 28, is scheduled to run through February 2012.
High-Hazard Worksites Targeted
OSHA has also issued its annual inspection plan under the Site-Specific Targeting 2010 (SST-10) program to help direct enforcement resources to high-hazard workplaces where the highest rates of injuries and illnesses occur.
The SST program is OSHA’s main programmed inspection plan for non-construction workplaces that have 40 or more workers. This inspection plan is based on work-related injury and illness data collected from a 2009 OSHA Data Initiative survey from 80,000 larger establishments in selected high-hazard industries.
Establishments are randomly selected for inspection from an initial list of 4,100 manufacturing, non-manufacturing, and nursing and personal care facilities. The plan focuses on several variables such as the number of injury and illness cases and number of days a worker has to stay away from work, or the number of workers who received job transfers or work restrictions due to injury or illness.
“Our goal is to prevent worker injuries and illnesses and save lives,” said Michaels. “The Site Specific Targeting program helps OSHA focus its enforcement resources to high-risk employers who are endangering their workers’ health and safety.”
The agency has been making a number of changes in recent weeks aimed at improving enforcement. Just last month, the Department of Labor’s Inspector General released an audit showing that OSHA had reduced fines to 98% of employers it cited in one 23-month period without ever evaluating the impact of the breaks.
The fine reductions, which totaled $321 million, included $127 million that may not have been appropriately granted and $1.1 million in breaks granted to employers with prior violations.
OSHA has begun implementing some of the audit recommendations and is currently reviewing others.