OSHA Budget Could See Big Increase

The U.S. House of Representatives passed on June 19, 2019, a so-called “minibus” budget appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020 that would increase the budget for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The bill passed by a 226-203 vote.

The new bill sets OSHA’s budget at $660,908,000, which is about $103 million more than the Trump administration’s proposed budget released in March. OSHA’s budget was $557.2 million in FY2019, according to Safety and Health Magazine. 

The bill specifies a few ways in which this budget can be spent:

  • $12.69 million is available for Susan Harwood training grants
  • A maximum of $3.5 million for Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)
  • A maximum of $123.23 million available for grants to states

The bill also outlines funding for NIOSH ($346.3 million) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration ($417.3 million), which would both be increases compared to their respective FY 2019 budgets.

The magazine also reports that while the bill passed the House, it is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate.

“The Senate may craft its own funding bill or try to resolve any differences with the House bill in a conference committee,” according to the publication.

Want to take your workplace’s safety program to the next level? Contact the experts at SCT. Put our decades of OSHA and workplace safety experience to work. Contact us today!


OSHA Considering Lockout/Tagout Update

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may be looking to update its Control of Hazardous Energy, also known as Lockout/Tagout, standard. The agency is requesting input from the public, specifically about the use of control circuit-type devices to isolate energy, as well as robotics technology.

OSHA is requesting information about:

  • how employers have been using control circuit devices, including information about the types of circuitry and safety procedures being used
  • limitations of their use, to determine under what other conditions control circuit-type devices could be used safely
  • new risks of worker exposure to hazardous energy as a result of increased interaction with robots
  • whether the agency should consider changes to the LOTO standard that would address these new risks.

The current standard “requires that all sources of energy be controlled during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment using an energy-isolating device.” It further specifies that control circuit devices cannot be used, “but the agency recognizes recent technological advances may have improved the safety of control circuit-type devices,” OSHA stated in a news release.

The Lockout/Tagout standard was first published in 1989.  Comments must be submitted by mail, by fax, or online on or before August 18, 2019.

Six States Sue to Fully Restore OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

A joint lawsuit filed March 6 by the attorneys general of New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York is trying to stop the rollback of OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule.

The lawsuit claims that OSHA did not provide a “reasoned explanation” for the change to the rule that would require many employers to submit injury and illness data online, according to Safety and Health Magazine. 

In January 2019, OSHA cited privacy concerns when it announced that employers would no longer have to submit injury and illness data from Forms 300 and 301.  Only data from Form 300A, which is an annual summary, would be required.

According to the lawsuit, OSHA made this change without meeting the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

“OSHA now argues that the costs of collecting the detailed information outweigh the benefits of doing so. OSHA’s reasons are not only unsupported factually,  but also plagued by logical contradictions,” according to the lawsuit. “OSHA’s explanations for the rule also fail to account for the many benefits of public disclosure that the commenters had raised.”

When the recordkeeping rule was originally adopted in 2016, OSHA stated that the information gained from these reports would help improve workplace safety across the U.S., according to a news release from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.

“New Jersey workers – and workers across the country – have the right to know about dangerous conditions on the job,” said Grewal. “Public reporting of workplace safety information helps states enforce our labor laws, forces employers to remove hazards, and empowers workers to demand improvements. Workers deserve that transparency, and the federal government should not be trying to take it away.

The complaint can be read in full by clicking here. 

OSHA Using Drones for Facility Inspections

A recently published internal OSHA memo outlines that agency’s use of “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS),” more commonly known as drones.

The memo, issued in May 2018 but only recently made public, details various best practices that OSHA employees must follow when using drones.

Most importantly to business owners, the memo states that OSHA “will obtain express consent from the employer prior to using UAS on any inspection.” To ensure safety, personnel on site must also be notified before the drone takes off.

The drone pilot must follow a host of requirements, including:

  • keep a visual line of sight with the drone
  • operate the drone only between sunrise and sunset
  • do not exceed a flight speed of 100 mph

If an OSHA region chooses to utilize drones during inspections, the region must assign a Regional UAS Program Manager that will oversee all the elements of a drone program. This manager must ensure that the drone program is carried out safely and follows all applicable local, state and federal regulations.

According to EHS Today, in 2018 OSHA used camera drones to conduct nine facility inspections, most often after accidents at workplaces that were dangerous for inspectors to enter, including an oil rig, a collapsed building, a combustible dust blast, a TV tower, and a chemical plant explosion.

To make sure your workplace is ready for anything OSHA might throw your way, contact the Workplace Safety Experts at SCT.






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.





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.






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.





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.