Congress pushes for OSHA Workplace Violence standard

House Democrats have introduced legislation to induce the Secretary of Labor to create an OSHA Workplace Violence standard for health care facilities. The Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act aims to reduce instances of workplace violence within the health care industry, which has a higher than average rate of workplace violence at inpatient worksites.

The move toward creating a workplace violence standard isn’t new. This latest national push follows a 2014 initiative launched by California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) which took effect in 2017.

For years, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries has illustrated that workers in the health care and social assistance industries see more fatal injuries resulting from workplace violence than any other category. In 2016 alone, there were 42 fatalities in the health care and social assistance fields that were caused by violence and other injuries by persons or animals. (That includes violence perpetrated by persons, self-inflicted injury, and attacks by animals.)

Of those 42 fatalities, 17 occurred in nursing and residential care facilities.

The Cal/OSHA regulations require all health care employers in California to develop and issue plans to prevent workplace violence  by April 1, 2018. The state’s legislation was backed by the California Nurses Association (CNA) and National Nurses United (NNU).

Though lacking an OSHA workplace violence standard, the agency does have general information and loose guidelines for assessing and handling workplace violence on its website.

The House legislation, introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on March 8,  was applauded by the NNU in a press release.

“Right now, health care facilities are not doing enough to prevent these violent incidents. Under the proposed federal standard, hospitals would need to assess and correct for environmental risk factors, patient specific risk factors, staffing and security system sufficiency,” said Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president, in the release.

“There are a number of interventions that can reduce violence in the hospital. For example, affixing furniture and lighting so they can’t be used as weapons, maintaining clear lines of site between workers while they are caring for patients, and providing easy access to panic buttons or phones to call for help,” Burger said. “It is imperative that nurses, doctors, and other health care workers, along with security staff and custodial personnel, are all involved in the development and implementation of these plans.”

Beryllium Enforcement Starting in May

OSHA’s updated beryllium standard has been a long time in the making, but a beryllium enforcement date has finally been set.

The administration announced that enforcement of the final rule will begin on May 11, 2018. The enforcement date had previously been scheduled for March 12, 2018. The extended timeframe ensures that stakeholders are aware of their obligations and that OSHA provides consistent instructions to its inspectors, according to an OSHA press release.

Back in January 2017, OSHA announced new comprehensive health standards addressing beryllium exposure in all industries. After seeking feedback from stakeholders, technical updates to the January 2017 General Industry Standard are being considered by the agency.

These updates, according to the press release, “clarify and simplify compliance with requirements.”

In addition to the general industry beryllium enforcement beginning on May 11, 2018, OSHA will also begin enforcement for the new lower 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit (STEL) for construction and shipyard industries.

According to OSHA, beryllium is a lightweight but strong metal used in many industries, including aerospace, medical, electronics, defense, and telecommunications. But beryllium is highly toxic, and workers who inhale it are at a higher risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer.

The new beryllium rule, which has standards for construction, general industry, and shipyards, will decrease the permissible exposure limit of beryllium to an average of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over 8 hours. A new short-term exposure limit was established at 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute sampling period.

Until the new beryllium enforcement date, should employers fail to meet the new PEL or STEL, “OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance,” according to the release.

Respiratory health is a major area of concern for OSHA. In addition to the beryllium enforcement starting in May 2018, awareness of and enforcement for OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standards have dominated OSHA news since 2016. Check out our video below about the importance of respiratory health and silica awareness in the workplace.

Need help creating a respiratory health program at your workplace? Contact the experts at SCT by filling out the contact form below. We can guide you through the process, from initial assessment, to program development, air monitoring and training — SCT is your one stop safety shop!



OSHA stakeholders present to Congressional subcommittee

On February 27, 2018, the congressional Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hosted a hearing entitled “A More Effective and Collaborative OSHA: A View from Stakeholders.”

In his opening statement, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) said the purpose of the meeting was to focus on “how OSHA can work more cooperatively with job creators especially in the small businesses community, to expand its compliance assistance efforts and for employers to provide the safest and healthiest workplaces possible.”

The hearing featured testimony from four witnesses: Peter Gerstenberger, on behalf of the Tree Care Industry Association; J. Gary Hill, on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); Dr. David Michaels, former Assistant Secretary for OSHA; and Eric Hobbs,  on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Gerstenberger told the committee that tree care industry has one of the 10 highest fatality rates in the U.S., with about 80 deaths annually. He also stated that while OSHA has worked with the association to improve worker safety, it hasn’t done enough and a specific safety standard is needed.

“From our perspective, federal OSHA could be most effective if it would adopt a rule specific to our industry. Here is why: a regulation will inform and empower every OSHA Certified Safety and Health Official to identify hazards and control measures unique to tree work and to intervene to prevent accidents,” Gerstenberger said.

Hill testified about the need for the expansion of small business compliance assistance because many small construction companies are confused by the existing standards.

“NAHB’s members want to ensure they are compliant with existing standards, but it is not always clear what the regulatory requirements are, especially when coupled with all of the other regulations that apply to the home building industry,” Hill said. “If OSHA’s goal is truly to ensure worker safety rather than the collection of fines, it must reorient away from its emphasis on enforcement and promulgation of new standards and focus more on compliance assistance to businesses subject to its regulations.”

Michaels, who led OSHA from 2009 to January 2017, said in his testimony that compliance programs are useful for employees who voluntarily want to protect their employees, but that clear standards and “strong, fair enforcement” are more effective in protecting workers.

Michaels also said the sentiment that safety regulations kill jobs is incorrect. “It is more accurate to call OSHA standards public health ‘protections’ because that’s exactly what they do: protect workers from preventable injuries, illnesses and death. When you hear someone talk about rolling back OSHA regulations, they’re really talking about endangering workers.”

In his testimony, Hobbs said OSHA needs to regain the trust of employers.

“For OSHA to lead the effort at improving workplace safety effectively, it must rebuild that trust. No single step or statement by the agency will do so. It will take a sustained, consistent effort,” Hobbs said. “Employers will welcome having a partner in the agency and being able to turn to it as a resource, rather than just to suffer under it as a disciplinarian.”

The submitted written testimony from each witness is available online at the committee’s website. A complete video recording of the hearing is also available on YouTube. 

OSHA releases fact sheet for General Industry Silica

OSHA has released a fact sheet about the General Industry silica standard, which will see enforcement take effect on June 23, 2018. For the past two years, silica has been a constant notice in any OSHA news update, and preventing potentially fatal silica-related diseases remains a top priority for OSHA.

While OSHA’s new silica standards for construction, general industry, and maritime became effective in June 2016, the enforcement and implementation dates were staggered to allow all industries time to adjust safety protocols and pursue additional employee training.

General industry and maritime employers must comply with all requirements of the new OSHA silica standard by June 23, 2018. The maritime and general industry silica standard requires employers to meet the following criteria:

  • Determine the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it is, or may reasonably be expected to be, at or above the Action Level (AL) of 25 μg/m³ (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m³, averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Limit access to areas where workers could be exposed above the PEL;
  • Use dust controls and safer work methods to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls and safer work methods cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica, such as use of compressed air without a ventilation system to capture the dust and dry sweeping, where effective, safe alternatives are available;
  • Offer medical exams–including chest X-rays and lung function tests–every three (3) years to workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
  • Train workers on the health effects of silica exposure, workplace tasks that can expose them to silica, and ways to limit exposure; and
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

View the full OSHA General Industry Silica fact sheet here.

There are two exceptions to the enforcement of the general industry silica standard: 1) medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the AL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020; 2) Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry must implement dust controls to limit exposures to the new PEL by June 23, 2021.

It is important to note that medical surveillance MUST be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2018.

Update your silica safety program and employee training with SCT today! Fill out the contact form below and someone from our safety team will be in touch.



Budget Document Details OSHA Agenda

Last week, we outlined how the federal government’s proposed 2019 Fiscal Year budget would impact the Department of Labor, which houses many of the federal organizations that focus on workplace safety and health, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The budget outlined a 21 percent budget decrease for the Department of Labor, but OSHA’s budget of $549 million is the same amount as what was enacted in FY2018.

The OSHA budget has now been detailed in the administration’s Budget Justification document that further details exactly how its budget would be used in the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2018.


OSHA expects to release three final rules, including for beryllium in general industry. The beryllium procedure is set to “proceed fairly quickly with a proposal in either late 2018 or very early 2019,” according to the document.

Final updates to the shipyard and construction versions of the beryllium standard are still expected in FY2018.

Beryllium is an important material in the aerospace, electronics, energy,  medical, and defense industries, but exposure can put workers at an increased risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer, according to OSHA.

The beryllium updates have been a long time in the making. The proposed rule was originally issued in 2015, with the final rule taking effect in May 2017.

If your company is in need of air monitoring or any other services to conform to the new beryllium standard, contact us today. SCT’s team of experts is always ready to help you reach your workplace safety goals.

Budget Shifts

While OSHA’s enacted 2018 budget matches the requested 2019 budget, the funds are set to be used in slightly different ways.

In FY 2019, the $549,033,000 budget will be used for 2,024 full time equivalent workers (FTE), which is an increase 71 FTE compared to 2018. An increase of $5.12 million would add 32 FTE to compliance assistance, including Voluntary Protection Programs, and a $6.148 million increase would add 42 FTE to enforcement.

OSHA has set a goal of 30,840 inspections and 46,573 enforcement units for FY2019. Enforcement units account for the differences in complexity and severity in different inspections. The 2019 enforcement unit goals are 12 percent increase over the number of units reached in 2017, according to the document.

To account for the budget increases in these areas, the Susan Harwood Training Grants would be eliminated, freeing up some $10.4 million. Additionally, $537,000 would be shifted away from Technical Support and $266,000 from Executive Direction.

Contact SCT with all Occupational Safety & Health Questions!



Mugno One Step Closer to OSHA Nomination

On Jan. 18, 2018, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved for the second time the nomination of Scott Mugno to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

This may sound familiar, but be assured that it’s not not deja vu. Mugno was approved by the same committee in December 2017, but the Senate did not confirm this nomination before the end of its session (Jan. 3, 2018), so this re-approval was necessary, according to Safety and Health Magazine. 

In order to officially become the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Mugno must now be confirmed by a hearing of the full Senate. This confirmation date has not yet been set.

Mugno, who has worked as the vice president for safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at FedEx Ground among other positions at the company, originally appeared publicly before members of the HELP committee in December 2017.

He has been employed at FedEx since 1994 and twice received the FedEx Five Star Award for his safety leadership, according to the White House’s statement.

According to OSHA’s organizational chart, Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt currently serves as the administration’s highest ranking official.

OSHA, which was established by the OSH Act in 1970, is a federal agency tasked with ensuring the safety and health of workers across the United States.

Flu Shots Still Available at SCT


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has categorized the flu as “widespread” in 49 states (it is listed as “Local Activity” in Hawaii as of January 23, 2018), but there are still a few months left in the flu season.

In addition to the cost of doctor visits and hospitalization, influenza could cost employers an estimated $9 billion in lost productivity, according to outplacement consultant firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

An annual influenza vaccine is still the best way to prevent the flu. At SCT, we offer flu shots for $25 – without the pharmacy wait! Check out our video above to learn the importance of the flu vaccine in preventing the spread of the disease.

Other Preventative Measures

After getting the flu vaccine, their are still numerous other ways to further prevent exposure to the virus. Here are a few highlights from OSHA’s Seasonal Flu online resources.

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. Clean your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough/sneeze into your upper sleeve.
  • Throw away tissues into a “no touch” wastebasket.
  • Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean, such as telephones and computer equipment.
  • Avoid shaking hands or coming in close contact with other people who may be ill.
  • If you are sick, stay home to keep the disease from spreading through your workplace.

Use these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu. To learn more about SCT’s flu shots or to schedule a meeting with our Occupational Health experts, call us at 1-800-204-1729 or fill out the contact form below.


Time to post the OSHA 300A Form

February 1 is right around the corner, which means OSHA is reminding employers to post a copy of their OSHA 300A Form in a common area where notices to employees are typically posted.

The OSHA 300A Form summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses during the previous year. OSHA requires this summary form to be displayed between February 1 and April 30.

According to OSHA’s recordkeeping and posting requirements, businesses with 10 or fewer employees and certain low-hazard industries are exempt from such posting requirements.

OSHA recordkeeping and reporting made headlines in 2016 and 2017 with the launch of the agency’s online reporting platform, called the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). As we previously reported, the electronic service was intended to improve workplace safety while giving researchers a pathway to more easily examine and identify new workplace hazards.

Companies required to comply with the electronic posting standard include businesses with 250 or more employees, or those with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk areas.

Since the electronic recordkeeping standard was introduced, there has been much debate over whether or not the electronic posting is necessary and fully secure. Certain states have OSHA-approved State Plans that have not, as of yet, adopted the requirement to submit electronic OSHA injury and illness reports. Businesses in these states — California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming — are not currently required to submit electronic data to OSHA through the ITA.

Stick with the safety experts at SCT as we follow all the developments with OSHA recordkeeping rules and regulations.

But remember, come Thursday, February 1, 2018, your company needs to post a copy of its OSHA 300A Form in a common area for all employees to access.

OSHA Agenda Moves Beryllium to Final Rule Stage


The U.S. government released in December its semiannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, with the OSHA agenda featuring 16 regulations.

The previous OSHA agenda, released in August 2017, had 14 OSHA regulations in three categories: pre-rule, proposed rule, and final rule.

According to the agenda’s introduction, the plan represents the Trump Administration’s continued move toward “regulatory reform and reorientation.”

By amending and eliminating regulations that are ineffective, duplicative, and obsolete, the Administration can promote economic growth and innovation and protect individual liberty,” the introduction states. 

Of note, modifications to the existing beryllium final rule moved from the proposed stage into the final rule stage. OSHA issued the updated beryllium rule in January 2017, and offered modifications in June 2017.

The administration has proposed to keep the new lower Permissible Exposure Limits of .2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, but to remove “ancillary provisions” in shipyards and construction, including housekeeping and personal protective equipment requirements.

The general industry standard will remain unchanged.

Inhalation of or contact with beryllium can cause numerous health effects including chronic beryllium disease, acute beryllium disease, and lung cancer.

According to the agenda’s timetable, this final rule is tentatively scheduled for September 2018.

The remaining items on OSHA’s regulatory agenda are:

Pre-Rule Stage

  • Communication Tower Safety
  • Mechanical Power Presses Update
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Lockout/Tagout Update
  • Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal

Proposed Rule Stage

  • Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard
  • Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Exemption Expansions for Railroad Roadway Work
  • Puerto Rico State Plan
  • Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

Final Rule Stage

  • Standards Improvement Project IV
  • Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol
  • Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records
  • Crane Operator Qualification in Construction
  • Technical Corrections to 16 OSHA Standards
  • Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnessess

Additionally, the agenda also lists a handful of longterm actions:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders reporting requirements
  • Infectious diseases
  • Prevention of major chemical accidents
  • Shipyard fall protection
  • Emergency response and preparedness
  • Update to hazard communication standard
  • Tree care standard
  • Prevention of workplace violence in health care and social assistance

Stick with SCT as we provide all of the OSHA news and expertise you need. Want to talk to our experts to improve your workplace safety program? Call us at 1-800-204-1729 or fill out the contact form below.



Maximum OSHA Penalty Increases with Inflation

As of January 2, 2018, the maximum penalties handed out by OSHA have increased by 2 percent.

Serious violations now come with a maximum penalty of $12,934, compared to $12,675 last year. Willful or repeat violations have a maximum penalty of $129,336, compared to the previous max of $126,749, according to the U.S. Federal Register. 

The new maximum penalty levels apply to violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, but with the penalty assessed after January 2, 2018. If the penalty was assessed between January 13, 2017, but on or before January 2, 2018, then the previous penalty scale is used.

In an effort to make all these numbers and dates easier to understand, we created a handy infographic below. Check it out and feel free to share it online or at your workplace.

The increase is a requirement of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act, which Congress passed into law in 2015. As a part of the legislation, maximum OSHA penalties must keep pace with the rate of inflation and have to be enacted before January 15 of each year.

Before 2015, OSHA’s penalty structure had not been updated since 1990. After that Act went into effect, maximum OSHA penalties increased from $7,000 to more than $12,000 for serious violation, and from $70,000 to $124,709 for willful or repeat violations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What’s the best way to avoid learning more about OSHA’s penalty structure? Preventing workplace injuries from happening! Our experts at SCT have decades of experience working for and with OSHA. Fill out our contact form to quickly get in touch with our team.