OSHA Fine Increase Delayed due to Government Shutdown

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may still be operating through the federal government shutdown, certain aspects of OSHA are on hold until the shutdown comes to an end.

One piece that will have to wait is the annual increase for maximum OSHA penalties. A few years back, legislators passed the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which keeps maximum civil penalties in line with inflation no later than January 15 of each year.

The increase goes into effect when a final rule is published in the Federal Register. However, even though OSHA is one of the agencies that is funded through the current government shutdown, the Office of the Federal Register is not. Therefore, the final rule cannot be published and the penalty increase cannot take place.

Once the new rule is published, here are what the new maximum OSHA penalty levels will be:

  • Serious, Other-than-Serious, or Posting Requirement – $13,260 per violation
  • Failure to Abate – $13,260 per day beyond the abatement date
  • Willful or Repeated – $132,598 per violation

The Department of Labor has posted a “prepublished version” of the final rule on its website. This version is unofficial and will be reviewed and may be changed by the Office of the Federal Register.

The effective date of the penalty increase will coincide with the date of publication, so the increased penalty levels will apply to penalties assessed after the effective date, according to OSHA.

Update: The final rule was published in the Federal Register on January 23. It can be viewed online here. 

A strong workplace safety program can protect your workers and help you avoid these costly OSHA fines. Contact the Workplace Safety Experts at SCT today for your free, no obligation consultation.








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OSHA Continues to Operate through Government Shutdown

Despite much of the federal government being shutdown for more than two weeks, some agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are still open for business.

Back in September 2018, legislators passed and President Trump signed into law a “minibus” funding bill, which funded a handful of agencies including the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA lies under the umbrella of the DOL and is fully funded through October 1, 2019.

OSHA will continue to enforce workplace safety regulations and prosecute citations. The Departments of Defense, Energy and Water, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services are also funded by this minibus bill.

But, with Department of Justice lawyers being furloughed during the shutdown, any litigation that involves the federal government will be impacted.

And since OSHA doesn’t stop, neither do the workplace safety experts at SCT. Contact us today for your free, no obligation consultation. Our experts include former OSHA Area and Regional Directors who have worked for and with the administration for more than a century.

Call us at 1-800-204-1729 or complete the contact form below.








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Worker deaths decreased slightly in 2017

Total worker deaths decreased in 2017, but fatal falls were at their highest level in decades, according to a new report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, with 887 fatal falls, 2017 represented the highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). This was an increase from the 849 such deaths in 2016 and accounted for 17 percent of all fatal injuries.

There were a total of 5,147 worker deaths in the U.S. in 2017, a slight decrease from the 5,190 in 2016. The fatal injury rate also fell to 3.5 per 100,000 full time equivalent workers (FTE) in 2017, down from 3.6 in 2016.

Although 2017 saw a decrease in worker deaths from 2016, it was still much higher than the number of worker deaths experienced from 2009 to 2015, as seen in the chart below.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” OSHA Acting Assistant Loren Sweatt said in a news release.  “Through comprehensive enforcement and compliance assistance that includes educating job creators about their responsibilities under the law, and providing robust education opportunities to workers, OSHA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the American workforce.”

A few more highlights from this year’s report:

  • Transportation incidents once again were the most common fatal workplace injury, accounting for 2,077 deaths (40 percent).
  • For the fifth straight year, unintentional drug or alcohol overdoses increased by more than 25 percent, accounting for 272 deaths in 2017.
  • With 33 deaths, crane-related fatalities reached their lowest ever level recorded in the CFOI
  • Confined space deaths increased to 166 in 2017 from 144 in 2016, a 15 percent jump
  • “Caught in running equipment or machinery” fatalities decreased 26 percent, from 103 in 2016 to 76 in 2017
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer drivers had the largest number of fatal workplace injuries (987), while fishers and logging workers had the highest fatal injury rates (99.8 per 100,000 FTE workers)
  • 15 percent of fatally injured workers were age 65 or older, a CFOI high for that demographic
  • 27 states had fewer workplace deaths in 2017 than in 2016, while 21 states and the District of Columbia had an increase; California and Maine did not change.
  • Fatal injuries among grounds maintenance workers decreased slightly from 247 to 244, but it was still the second-highest mark since 2003; 36 of the deaths were due to falls from trees
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

OSHA Proposes Change to Beryllium Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed changes to the beryllium standard for general industry. According to OSHA, the changes are designed to clarify the standard and simply compliance.

The proposed rule would add or change the definitions of six terms, namely:

  • beryllium sensitization
  • beryllium work area
  • chronic beryllium disease
  • CBD diagnostic center
  • confirmed positive
  • and dermal contact with beryllium

The proposed rule will also modify additional sections of the standard including “Methods of Compliance,” “Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment,” “Hygiene Areas and Practices,” “Housekeeping,” “Medical Surveillance,” “Hazard Communication,” and “Recordkeeping.”

It would also remove the existing Appendix A, which lists suggested controls, and replace it with a new Appendix A, Operations for Establishing Beryllium Work Areas.

Back in January 2017, OSHA published a final rule Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds. The rule set new permissible exposure limits to significantly reduce beryllium risk to workers. Other requirements included rules for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping.

OSHA is enforcing the permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air and the short-term exposure limit of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air for general industry, construction and shipyards.

This new proposed rule satisfies a settlement agreement with stakeholders that had concerns about some of the provisions in the 2017 beryllium final rule.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in electronics and the defense industry, among others. Overexposure can cause serious health risks, including incurable chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer. According to OSHA’s estimates, about 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium each year.

Comments, hearing requests, and other information must be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal, or by mail. Comments must be submitted by February 11, 2019. The enforcement date for the provisions affected by this proposal is December 12, 2018.

OSHA: Temp Workers Require Lockout/Tagout Protection

Temporary workers are important to many businesses, but they are some of the most at-risk workers on the job. In an effort to curb temporary worker injuries and illnesses, OSHA has released a new Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin concerning Lockout/Tagout or hazardous energy.

Under OSHA temporary workers are afforded the same health and safety protections as full-time employees. When employed under the joint employment of a staffing agency and a host employer, both employers are responsible for a safe workplace.

The Lockout/Tagout bulletin covers OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.147 – The Control of Hazardous Energy. When workers are performing maintenance or servicing a machine, they need to be protected from the sudden release of hazardous energy. Numerous types of energy can be dangerous including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, thermal, chemical or pneumatic.

According to the TWI Bulletin, the lockout/tagout standard requires that employers:

  • develop and enforce a lockout program with written procedures that include steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking and securing equipment
  • use lockout procedures whenever possible
  • create and enforce a tagout program if equipment can not be locked out
  • ensure that lockout/tagout devices identify each user and establish a rule that only the employee who applied the lockout/tagout device is permitted to remove it
  • inspect procedures at least annually and provide necessary training for employees

While the host employer is usually in the best position to ensure compliance with the Lockout/Tagout standard, both it and the staffing agency share responsibility to make sure that employees are protected from hazardous energy. The staffing agency may provide generalized Lockout/Tagout training, but it also must make sure that the host employer provides training that is specific to their worksite.

OSHA has released 10 TWI Bulletins since 2014, and the latest Lockout/Tagout edition is the third released in 2018. Other topics include noise exposure, bloodborne pathogens, and personal protection equipment. The full list can be viewed by clicking here. 

Struggling with lockout/tagout and controlling hazardous energy at your workplace? Contact the OSHA Workplace Safety Experts at SCT for your free, no obligation consultation.








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Crane Operator Final Rule Issued by OSHA

OSHA has released the final rule that clarifies certification requirements for crane operators on Nov. 7, 2018. The final rule also maintains the employer’s duty to ensure that crane operators can safely operate the equipment.

The final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 9, 2018, will require that employers train operators as needed to perform assigned crane activities, evaluate the operators, and then document successful completion of the evaluations. If employers completed evaluations before Dec. 9, 2018, they will not have to reevaluate the operators, but will only have to document that the evaluations occurred.

Crane operators must be certified based on the crane’s type and capacity, or the type only, and must receive ongoing training for new equipment. The capacity and type distinction revises a 2010 crane operator requirement that certifications must specify the rated lifting capacity of the cranes that the operator is certified on.

While testing organizations are not required to issue certifications distinguished by rated capacities, they are permitted to do so, and employers may accept them or continue to use certifications based on crane type alone.

OSHA estimates that 117,130 crane operators will be impacted by the final rule. The estimated cost to the industry will be $1.481 million for the performance of operator competency evaluations, $62,000 for documenting those evaluations, and $94,000 for any additional training needed for operators, bringing the total annual cost of compliance to $1.637 million.

But at the same time, OSHA does anticipate the rule will save money for employers. Due to fewer operators needing to get an additional certification, OSHA expects a “large one-time cost savings” of more than $25 million. An additional annual saving of $426,000 is also expected as certifications for operators moving to a higher capacity would no longer be needed.

Additionally, because most employers are already complying with many of the training and evaluation requirements, OSHA concluded that, on average, the impact of costs on employers will be low.

Most portions of the crane operator final rule will become effective on Dec. 10, 2018. Evaluation and documentation requirements will become effective on Feb. 7, 2019.

OSHA’s Most Cited Violations of 2018

The annual National Safety Council Congress & Expo is being held this week, and with it comes the annual release of OSHA’s most cited violations for fiscal year 2018.

For the eighth straight year, fall protection –general requirements (1926.501) is OSHA’s most frequently cited standard, according to Safety and Health Magazine. 

The rest of the top five – hazard communication (1910.1200), scaffolding (1926.451), respiratory protection (1910.134), lockout/tagout (1910.147) – remain unchanged from last year, per OSHA’s preliminary figures.

Eye and Face Protection (1926.102) broke into the top 10 this year, while Electrical Wiring Methods (1910.305) fell out of the list.

In a press release, National Safety Council President Deborah A.P. Hersman said, “Knowing how workers are hurt can go a long way toward keeping them safe. The OSHA Top 10 list calls out areas that require increased vigilance to ensure everyone goes home safely each day.”

View the full list of OSHA’s most cited violations for 2018 below, and click here to view 2017’s most cited violations. 

Violation

Number of Citations

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501)     

7,270

2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)

4,552

3. Scaffolding (1926.451)              

3,336

4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)     

3,118

5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)    

2,944

6. Ladders (1926.1053) 

2,812

7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)

2,294

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503)             

1,982

9. Machine Guarding (1910.212) 

1,972

10. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102)          

1,536

 

To avoid these costly OSHA violations, be sure to contact the workplace safety experts at SCT for your free, no obligation consultation.








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OSHA Launches Site-Specific Targeting Using Electronic Data

Using electronically submitted employer data from 2016, OSHA has launched the Site-Specific Targeting 2016 Program that will target high-injury rate businesses for inspections.

Before 2014, Site-Specific Targeting programs used data collected from the OSHA Data Initiative.

Under the program, OSHA will perform inspections of employers who it believes should have electronically submitted 300A injury and illness data, but did not. For 2016, employers who met certain criteria had to submit the data through an online portal by Dec. 15, 2017. For 2017, the deadline was July 1, 2018.

From now on, businesses with 250 or more employees that must currently keep OSHA injury and illness records, along with businesses in certain -high-risk industries with 20-249 employers, must submit this data each year by March 2.

According to OSHA’s official notice, which was released on October 16, 2018, the program “helps OSHA achieve its goal of ensuring that employers provide safe and healthful workplaces by directing enforcement resources to those workplaces with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses.”

The notice also lays out how OSHA will choose the organizations that are inspected.

  • High Rate Establishments
    • Businesses that have higher Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate
  • Low Rate Establishments
    • To verify data accuracy, a random sample of low DART rate establishments will be included
  • Non-responders
    • A random sample of companies that did not submit required data will also be inspected, which is intended to “discourage employers from not reporting injury and illness information in order to avoid an inspection”

The notice will remain in effect for one year from the release date unless replaced by another notice.

OSHA, NIOSH Budgets Officially Increased

OSHA will enjoy a $5 million budget increase next year after legislators and President Donald Trump recently approved an appropriations bill.

OSHA will receive about $557.8 million in fiscal year 2019, according to Safety and Health Magazine. Last year, the administration received about $552.8 million.

OSHA-Approved State Plans will receive a maximum of $102.4 million, an increase of $1.5 million. State Plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states rather than federal OSHA. They must be at least as effective as the federal OSHA program. More than 20 states or territories operate State Plans.

OSHA’s enforcement budget increased by $1 million to $209 million total, and Voluntary Protection Programs will receive at least $3.5 million. Overall, $73.5 million was set aside for federal compliance assistance, which marks a $3.5 million increase.

The Susan Harwood Training Grants Program, which has almost been eliminated in recent years, will receive $10.5 million in FY2019.

NIOSH – the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – saw its budget increase $1.1 million to $336.3 million.

NIOSH will receive $336.3 million – a $1.1 million increase from FY 2018

In addition to the Department of Labor, the appropriations bill also included funding approval for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Trenching and Excavation: OSHA Updates Emphasis Program

In response to a sharp increase in trenching and excavation worker deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its National Emphasis Program on the topic.

The updated program, which began on October 1, 2018, features two major changes as highlighted by OSHA. It provides a national reporting system for all OSHA trenching and excavation inspections, and it establishes the requirement for each OSHA Area Office or Region to develop outreach programs supporting the emphasis program.

Per OSHA, the outreach “should include providing compliance assistance material to excavation employers, permitting and other municipal organizations, industry associations, equipment rental organizations, water works supply companies and major/local plumbing companies.”

Between 2011 and 2016, there were 130 recorded trenching and excavation fatalities, with 104 in the private construction industry. Of those fatalities, 49 percent occurred in 2015 and 2016. The National Emphasis Program is part of OSHA’s effort to curb this alarming trend.

In a news release, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt said it is critical to help workers identify trenching hazards. “OSHA will concentrate the full force of enforcement and compliance assistance resources to help ensure that employers are addressing these serious hazards.”

The emphasis program starts with a three-month period of education and prevention outreach, where OSHA will respond to complaints, referrals, hospitalizations and fatalities. After this three-month period, enforcement will begin and remain in effect until cancelled.

SCT’s team of trenching and excavation experts can guide you through all aspects of OSHA’s standards.  Our in-house experts boast decades of experience working with every type of companies, from small local businesses to large corporations and municipalities. Whether through on-site audits, engineering design, or customized employee training, SCT has you covered.

Call today at 1-800-204-1729 or complete the contact form below for your free, no obligation consultation.








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