As the current Presidential administration gets ready for its last full calendar year, OSHA could enact some of the most significant changes it’s made in recent memory.
Here are five areas to watch this year regarding OSHA:
- Penalties: The 2016 federal budget allows OSHA to increase the maximums for fines for the first time since 1990. The bill allows OSHA to play catch-up, with a one time increase that could be up to 80%, potentially increasing the maximum for a serious violation from $7,000 to $12,500 and the top willful and repeat penalty from $70,000 to $125,000. The budget calls for the adjustment to “take effect not later than August 1, 2016.”
- New inspection priorities: OSHA officially launched its new Enforcement Weighting System (EWS) on Oct. 1, 2015. The EWS gives the green light for OSHA to conduct fewer inspection, but increase the number of facility check-ups involving more complex hazards, including process safety management, ergonomics, heat hazards, permissible chemical exposures, workplace violence and combustible dust.
- Company injury records online: OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” draft final rule arrived at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on Oct. 5, one of the last steps before a regulation is enacted. The proposal would add new electronic injury reporting requirements for companies. It would also make companies’ injury data available online to the public. That part of the regulation has been unpopular with some business and safety groups. In a Safety News Alert poll this fall, only 38% of respondents said they were in favor of the idea, with 31% opposed and 31% unsure.
- New/revised regulations: OSHA’s fall 2015 regulatory agenda listed four rules for final action in the first four months of 2016: Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica; Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (Slips, Trips and Fall Prevention); the above-mentioned injury reporting rule; and Updating OSHA Standards Based on National Consensus Standards: Eye and Face Protection. The silica rule is being closely watched by safety advocates who consider this a must-do rule before the end of the Obama administration. The rule would update the permissible exposure limit for silica.
- Permissible exposure limits: OSHA expects to complete its analysis of comments in April 2016 on its proposal to update PELs for hazardous chemicals. Various approaches to updating PELs are being considered. Meanwhile, some jurisdictions aren’t waiting for federal OSHA. “It is clear that federal OSHA will never be able to keep the regulatory levels sufficiently up to date, at least until a completely new approach is developed and adopted,” Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood said. Wood’s statement was followed by the announcement that Oregon would look for ways the state can better encourage employers to adhere to more updated PELs, such as NIOSH Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations, and it would tackle four to six of the most significant and outdated PELs at its own state level.
What’s on your priority list for workplace safety in 2016? Let us know in the comments.