OSHA citations up 15%: Who's getting fined -and why

OSHA citations up 15%: Who's getting fined -and why

Fact: OSHA violations were up 15% in 2010. That stat and other data in OSHA's 2010 enforcement summary show the agency's made good on its promise to ramp up enforcement efforts.  But the agency's going beyond just slapping companies with more fines.  The summary also offers a clearer picture of how OSHA is choosing the industries and companies to inspect.

More programmed inspections
OSHA says it's devoted more resources to targeting workplaces where employees face the most risk.  Programmed inspections were up 15.1 % in 2010. Specifically, OSHA is targeting hazards under its National Emphasis Programs, including:
• amputations
• combustible dust
• crystalline silica, and
• lead.

The lesson: Pay close attention to what OSHA's targeting on a national level and what your regional office is focused on.

Taking complaints seriously
For unprogrammed inspections, OSHA's relying more heavily on one source: your employees. OSHA inspections prompted by complaints were up by almost 9% last year.  Make sure workers know you take their concerns seriously. If they feel they're not being heard, they may complain to OSHA, which is now more likely to result in an inspection.

Targeting severe violators
OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) has given the agency more power to target workplaces after a safety incident.  As a result, follow-up inspections have become more common.  But the SVEP doesn't stop there. You're also more likely to get a visit from an inspector if another facility operated by your company has been fined recently. The SVEP allows OSHA to inspect other worksites to look for "a broader pattern of non-compliance." OSHA's sending a message: Once you're on our hit list, it's tough to get off.

Willful violations through the roof
Perhaps the most startling statistic in the report: Willful violations were up 217% over 2009.  OSHA says some of the increase is due to a few headline-grabbing inspections. But it still shows: OSHA cops will use every tool at their disposal to boost fine amounts for violations.

Reprinted with permission 

Safety Compliance Alert 4/21/11

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