SAFETY SOLUTIONS: OSHA Is on the Move
If you watch the headlines today in the OSHA news,
OSHA is stepping up their enforcement efforts especially
in the plastic industry and concentrating their efforts
on process safety, lockout and tagout, hazard communication,
machine guarding and electrical safety standards.
Are you ready if OSHA visits your site? The agency has
received some heat for not issuing citations to employers
who are violating occupational safety and health regulations.
Jonathan L. Snare, Acting Assistant Secretary of
Labor for Occupational Safety and Health says the agency
will respond as usual to reports of fatalities and complaints,
conducting full investigations and issuing citations
where warranted. The agency has not gone soft on
enforcement, he says; it is one part of the workplace safety
Richard Fairfax, Director of OSHA’s enforcement programs,
says that until the hurricane season of 2005
struck, the agency was on target to exceed its enforcement
goals for fiscal year 2006, which runs from Sept. 30
to Sept. 30. In fiscal year 2005, the agency had a goal of
conducting 37,700 inspections; the final tally was
“The last few years, we’ve exceeded our goal. The only
caution (for fiscal year 2006) is the tremendous resources
tied up with the hurricanes. We have people tied up in
regions IV and VI who are still providing technical assistance,”
Fairfax says that as of Nov. 30, 2005, the agency had
960 workplaces that met the criteria for the agency’s
Enhanced Enforcement Program, designed to address
employers who have been cited repeatedly but haven’t
corrected their problems, The initiative impacts establishments
that received OSHA citations with the highest
severity of willful violations, multiple serious violations at
the highest level of severity, repeat violations at the originating
establishment, failure-to-abate notices or a serious
or willful violation associated with a fatality.
The Site-Specific Targeting Program, which targets companies
with injury and illness rates generally twice the
national average, remains a strong enforcement tool, says
Fairfax. The agency sends out 13,000 to 14,000 letters
each year to employers, and a certain percentage of those
workplaces will receive a targeted inspection. The agency
planned to conduct over 4,000 worksite inspections last
year and is finishing up 2005 inspections now. Letters for
the 2006 SST program will be sent to employers in
February, he adds.
In many cases, the compliance officers conducting those
inspections will be better educated than in previous years.
Programs started under former OSHA Administrator John
Henshaw to encourage compliance officers and other staff
members to receive professional certification as certified safety
professionals or as certified industrial hygienists continue.
Doing the Right Thing
One of the most popular programs ever launched by
OSHA has been the Voluntary Protection Program. Nearly
1,400 worksites in federal and state-plan states participate
in the program, which has grown 15 percent a year
for the past 5 years. VPP sites typically have injury and illness
rates 50 percent below the rates for their industries.
The best thing about VPP, says Paula White, OSHA’s
Director Of Cooperative and State Programs, is the fact
that 70 percent of the participants mentor other sites.
“These are model workplaces, and they are spreading that
culture to other worksites,” she says.
VPP continues to grow and the agency plans to expand
programs such as the Corporate VPP program, in which six
companies participated in 2005 on a corporate level, rather
than on a worksite level. Six additional companies have
asked to join the corporate program, and they will be entering
the program, if they meet the criteria, in 2006. The VPP
Challenge program, aimed at employers who are working
toward VPP participation but need more mentoring before
they are ready to apply, partners 12 administrators with 40
coordinators and the 60 employers who are active participants
in the program. Those employers represent 21,000
employees and 82 unions, says White. Plans are to continue
the growth of that program in 2006 as well.
Last year, the agency sponsored the first conference for
small employers participating in the Safety and Health
Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). There are
843 participants in the SHARP program – 273 are new to
the program this year – and they tallied injury and illnesses
rates approximately 25 percent below the Bureau
of Labor Statistics average for their industries, says White.
The plan is to hold similar conferences – which focus on
best practices – every year.
Did you receive and OSHA citation last year?
Remember that the letters are being sent out by OSHA
this month and if your injuries are higher than the national
average for your industry, you can bet that OSHA is
watching you. Many consulting companies like ours have
on-line OSHA training available for you to use. The cost for
taking these courses are usually less than $19.00 for a
regulatory course. Take a look at these regulatory courses
by visiting our site at www.podojilconsulting.com. If you
are interested in becoming a OSHA VPP site, let the magazine
or me know and we can offer you help. Want to lower
your insurance cost? Become an OSHA VPP Star site. If
you become an OSHA partner, you will be taken off their
list of employers who they will visit this coming year.
Finally, we received many calls regarding our article in
the last issue on Workplace Violence and thank you for
your questions and your support. We are here to help you
and your company!
Following-up on last issue’s Safety Solutions column:
Violence in the Workplace which touched on risk, prevention
and legislation regarding workplace violence, we wanted
to expand more on having employees trained to recognize
and deal with the potential for violence.
Managers and staff should watch for employees with
a potential for violence. They can be:
Type A personalities
May have recently had a loss (divorce, bankruptcy, etc.)
- May have a drug or alcohol problem
Responding to Violence
Do not deter from your policy for any reason. You
must make clear that the behavior is not permissible
and negative actions will result.
- Have and communicate in writing a policy that outlines
threatening behavior will not be tolerated and
discipline will result.
Require employees to report any such behavior
immediately. Some companies even discipline
employees who fail to report threatening behaviors to
assure all employees take the issue seriously.
At any instance of threatening behavior, take action.
Do not allow “I was just kidding”, “He always talks
like that” or “She doesn’t mean it” to deter you. You
cannot differentiate who is kidding or who really means
it, so you must take action for every instance.
Reasonable employees will understand; employees
who do not should be watched more closely.
- Take immediate action - remember that perpetrators
of violence rarely start off with a single, large violent
act. They test boundaries first, to see what they can
get away with; you must try to stop them before
- Start with verbal warnings, documented to their personnel
file and let the employee know that progressive
discipline will ensue if the behavior continues.
Follow up with written warnings, suspensions,
requirements to seek counseling as a condition of
continued employment and even termination if the
behavior does not cease. Always consult your bargaining
agreement if you are a union shop.
- Request your local police sit in on disciplinary meetings
if you feel threatened.
- Notify police of names, addresses and vehicles of disgruntled
employees so they can be alerted during
and off company hours for unusual activity.
Let the employee know that the authorities have been
Remember, this is not meant to be a comprehensive
list, contact local authorities or experts for additional
For more information, click on the Author Biography at the top of this page.