Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) officers are coming and they’ve got a new attitude. It’s called a Democratic administration, which is stepping up OSHA hiring and enforcement. Are you ready?
According to a highly placed state OSHA official, Federal OSHA is “ramping up” with the hiring of 400 new positions expected in 2010, about 200 positions in inspections. He reports that many of these new positions will head to Texas, which leads the nation in workplace fatalities, to focus on the petroleum industry. Some in the blogosphere have noted the symbolism of a Texas thrust on enforcement given it is George Bush’s home state. Under the Bush administration, the department moved toward “voluntary compliance” and many companies chose to ignore OSHA standards, finding it cheaper to pay fines than comply. One article in the Washington Post excoriated the agency’s “inaction.”
Underreporting of injuries has been a problem and the official predicts OSHA will focus on high-risk employer categories that report low numbers of injuries. Part of the inspection process will now mean record reviews by compliance officers who will “meet with the employer’s health care providers to ask their experience with the entity” in question. Incidentally, there is buzz of increased enforcement for organizations who hire a number of non-English speaking employees. And with the recent rash of workplace violence acts against women, ensuring your organization has a workplace violence prevention policy is more important now than ever.