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Category Archives: Inspections

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OSHA Assures Employers That Rapid Response Investigation Reports Will Not Be Used in Issuing Citations

Since OSHA’s revised fatality and severe injury reporting rule went into effect on January 1, 2015 (see related story), employers have been deeply concerned that the agency would use information contained in Rapid Response Investigation Reports (RRIs) — required by OSHA in response to approximately 50% of the reports made this year — as the basis for issuing citations and fines.  This concern stems from the fact that when OSHA finds an employer’s RRI unsatisfactory, such as where the employer merely blames the victim or fails to provide what the agency determines is an adequate plan to address identified hazards, … Continue Reading

Dollar Tree Agrees to $825,000 OSHA Fine – Employment Law This Week

One of the featured stories on Employment Law This Week – Epstein Becker Green’s new video program – is Dollar Tree’s $825,000 fine for OSHA violations.

Retail store Dollar Tree has agreed to a hefty fine as well as continual monitoring of its stores across the US. A third-party monitor will conduct audits on 50 stores over the next two years. This settles a wide range of complaints arising from 13 different OSHA inspections. The agency is increasingly using this tactic of issuing repeat citations for the same violations at different company worksites. This could have a much bigger impact … Continue Reading

Dollar Tree Resolves Multiple OSHA Citations in Burdensome Corporate-Wide Settlement Agreement: Is This a Sign of Things to Come?

OSHA has employed many creative strategies to maximize its enforcement efforts during the Obama administration.  One such tactic involves scrutinizing employers with multiple worksites (retailers are a particularly easy target), sending compliance officers to inspect one of the worksites, issuing citations, and then visiting the employer’s other worksites, identifying the same problems found in the first worksite inspected, and issuing repeat citations to the employer based on the citation issued at the original worksite.  This approach gives OSHA significant bang for its buck, not only creating the opportunity to issue more citations by inspecting multiple facilities, but also making it … Continue Reading

OSHA Fines Are on the Rise: Extended Interview from Employment Law This Week

As our regular readers know, I was recently interviewed on our firm’s new video program, Employment Law This Week.  The show has now released “bonus footage” from that episode – see below!

In the interview, I elaborate on my recent post, “Employers Beware: OSHA Fines Are on the Rise for the First Time in Twenty-Five Years.”

Thanks for watching – I’d love to know if you have any questions. (And what you think about these videos!)

 

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OSHA Fines Rise – Employment Law This Week

Employment Law This Week – Epstein Becker Green’s new video program – has an interview with attorney Valerie Butera, editor of this blog, on OSHA’s first fine increases in 25 years.

Under a new bipartisan budget bill, OSHA civil penalties will rise next year to reflect the difference between the Consumer Price Index in 1990 and in 2015 – an increase of as much as 82%. After this “catch up” adjustment, the fines will keep pace with inflation moving forward. Valerie describes how employers can boost their safety programs and avoid OSHA citations.

See below to view the episode and … Continue Reading

OSHA’s Response to Compliance with the New Reporting Rules and What it Means to Employers

Although OSHA’s new reporting rule has been in effect for almost seven months now, it has caused some major changes in the way that OSHA operates.  Since the new reporting rule went into effect on January 1, 2015, OSHA has received more than 5,000 reports of work-related deaths, inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye.  As OSHA anticipated, compliance with the rule has focused the agency’s attention on industries and hazards that it had not focused on before.  For example, because of the unexpectedly high number of reports of amputations from supermarkets, OSHA issued a safety Fact Sheet last … Continue Reading

Five Steps Toward Boosting Employee Safety and Avoiding OSHA Citations

I recently authored Epstein Becker Green’s March issue of Take 5 in which I outline actionable steps that employers can take to improve safety and avoid costly OSHA citations.

Following is an excerpt:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) was created by Congress to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for employees. OSHA establishes standards and provides training and compliance assistance. It also enforces its standards with investigations and citations.

Although it’s impossible for employers to mitigate against every conceivable hazard in the workplace, there are five critical steps that every employer should take to improve safety in the … Continue Reading

OSHA’s Appropriations Efforts Signal Increased Enforcement and Higher Penalties in 2015

President Obama’s recent budget proposal to Congress includes a proposed $592.1 million budget for OSHA this fiscal year — a 7 percent increase from fiscal 2015.  Although gaining approval of the proposal will surely be an uphill battle, which may be insurmountable in light of opposition from Republican lawmakers who oversee the appropriations process, the content of OSHA’s budget justification provides strong signals of its agenda for the coming year.

First, OSHA seeks to add 90 full-time positions to the agency for fiscal 2016.  Sixty of the new positions would be assigned to enforcement activities – forty of the new … Continue Reading

OSHA’s Revised Recordkeeping and Reporting Rules for Retail in 2015

Retailers, get ready for OSHA’s revised recordkeeping and reporting rules, effective January 1, 2015.

As I note in my Act Now Advisory—“What Do OSHA’s Revised Recordkeeping and Reporting Rules Really Mean for Retailers?”—several additional retail industries will be required to keep records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses, and several are no longer subject to the rules. The new reporting requirements apply to all retailers, even those included in the exempt list.

See the advisory for more information – below is an excerpt of my tips for retail employers:

  • Train your safety and human resource professionals and your managers
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Complimentary Webinar Video: OSHA Forecast, 2015 and Beyond

See below for a recording of my recent webinar, “OSHA Forecast: Developments to Watch in 2015 and Beyond.”

As I discuss, in 2015, many more industries will for the first time be required by OSHA to record injuries and illnesses in the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Recordkeeping log. The reporting of severe injuries or illnesses is also changing, and we anticipate a greater focus on enforcements and inspections.

Topics include:

  • Where we are now and the direction of OSHA in 2015
  • Recording and recordkeeping requirements
  • Whistleblowing and its impact on your business
  • Preparing for increased OSHA inspections of incidents
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OSHA to Target Auto Supply Manufacturers

By Amanda R. Strainis-Walker

OSHA recently launched a Regional Emphasis Program (REP) that will focus enforcement resources on employers operating in the automotive supply manufacturing industry.  This new Auto Supply Manufacturers enforcement program will target manufacturers in the southeast that supply engines, airbags, trim, or any other automotive products.  The specific geographic areas covered by the inspection program include at least Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

“Hazards associated with the Auto Parts Supplier Industry that are the focus of this REP continue to be the source of serious injuries, including amputations, and deaths to employees,” OSHA explained in the REP.  “The

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OSHA-Related New Year’s Resolutions and Wishes for 2014

As the clock ticked down and the apple dropped to start a new year, many of us reflected on the year that had passed and our resolutions and New Year’s wishes for the upcoming year.  Probably not many of you were thinking about your resolutions and New Year’s wishes as they related to everybody’s favorite regulatory agency, OSHA, so let us do that for you.  Here are three New Year’s wishes about OSHA enforcement that the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker & Green hopes to see come true in 2014 for our clients and friends in Industry:

1.      Continue Reading

What Are Employers’ Rights During OSHA Inspections?

I was recently asked an interesting question by an industry contact:

“Employers often are told to know and exercise their rights during an OSHA inspection.  What exactly are employers’ rights during an OSHA inspection?”

While it may not feel like it during an inspection, employers have many rights before, during, and after OSHA inspections.

Before an inspection even begins, employers have a right under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be free in their workplaces, just as they are in their homes, from unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes inspections by OSHA.  What that means is, OSHA may … Continue Reading

In-Person OSHA Briefings in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh (Sept. 24th & 25th): Managing OSHA Inspections

Join Eric J. Conn and Amanda Strainis-Walker, attorneys from Epstein Becker & Green’s national OSHA Practice Group, for two in-person OSHA briefings on Tuesday, September 24th in Philadelphia, PA and Wednesday, September 25th in Pittsburgh, PA.

The presentations will focus on why it’s important to and how best to prepare for and manage OSHA inspections.  Here is the invitation:

To register for the 9/24 Philadelphia Briefing, click here.
To register for the 9/25 Pittsburgh Briefing, click here.

 

If you have questions about these events, please contact Eric J. Conn, Head of the OSHA Practice Group.… Continue Reading

OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program — Washington Legal Foundation Legal Backgrounder

Last week, Washington Legal Foundation published a Legal Backgrounder regarding OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”) authored by Eric J. Conn, Head of Epstein Becker & Green’s national OSHA Practice Group.  The Legal Backgrounder expands on a series of posts here on the OSHA Law Update blog regarding OSHA’s controversial Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The article focuses on a White Paper issued by OSHA this Spring, in which OSHA analyzes the first 18 months of its new, controversial enforcement program.  The White Paper concludes that the SVEP is “off to a strong start” and is “already meeting certain key goals,” … Continue Reading

OSHA To Target Exits and Exit Routes

By Eric J. Conn, Head of the OSHA Group at Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.

Last month, OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum directing inspectors to scrutinize whether employers provide and maintain adequate means of exit; i.e., unlocked, unobstructed, and clearly marked exit doors and exit routes and doors that comply with 29 C.F.R. 1910 Subpart E – Means of Egress (specifically, the various requirements of 1910.36).  The memo was issued in response to a deadly explosion and ammonia release at a poultry processing plant in China on June 4, 2013, in which at least 120 employees lost their lives, … Continue Reading

OSHA Claims Its Severe Violator Enforcement Program is “Off to a Strong Start”

By Eric J. Conn, Head of the OSHA Group at Epstein Becker & Green

Introduction

OSHA recently issued a White Paper analyzing the first 18 months of its controversial enforcement initiative known as the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”).  Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the White Paper somehow concludes that the SVEP is “off to a strong start,” and that it “is already meeting certain key goals,” including:

  1. Successfully identifying recalcitrant employers who disregard their OSH Act obligations; and
  2. Effectively allocating OSHA’s follow-up enforcement resources “by targeting high-emphasis hazards, facilitating inspections across multiple worksites of employers found to be
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Employees at a Non-Union Worksite May Select a Union Representative for an OSHA Inspection

By Paul H. Burmeister and Eric J. Conn

On April 5, 2013, OSHA published a formal Interpretation Letter (dated February 21, 2013) addressing whether, pursuant to OSHA’s regulation at 29 C.F.R. 1903.8(c) (Representatives of Employers and Employees), employees at a worksite without a collective bargaining agreement may authorize a person affiliated with a union or community organization to act as the employees’ representative during proceedings under the OSH Act, including compliance inspections.  OSHA responded affirmatively.

29 C.F.R. 1903.8(c) provides:

“The representative(s) authorized by employees shall be an employee(s) of the employer.  However, if in the judgment of the Compliance Safety

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OSHA FAQ Series (FAQ #5: Equipping Your OSHA Inspection Team with the Right Tools)

In March of last year, we answered five frequently asked questions related to OSHA inspections.  After receiving much positive feedback about that post and a few new OSHA inspection-related questions, we decided to launch a regular series on the OSHA Law Update blog with posts dedicated to OSHA Frequently Asked Questions.  For each post in this OSHA FAQ Series, we include both a text response and a video/webinar with slides and audio.

In last month’s OSHA FAQ #4 we talked about the importance of and strategies for establishing an internal OSHA Inspection Team.  In this month’s OSHA FAQ #5 we … Continue Reading

OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program Defies Constitution – Feed & Grain Magazine Article (Jan. 2013 )

The January/February 2013 issue of Feed & Grain Magazine featured an article entitled “Severe Violator Enforcement Program Defies Constitution” authored by Eric J. Conn, the Head of EBG’s national OSHA Practice Group.  The article expands on a series of posts here on the OSHA Law Update blog regarding OSHA’s controversial Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”).

The article provides a detailed explanation about the SVEP, including:

  1. The origin and intent of OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program;
  2. the consequences to employers who “qualify” for the SVEP;
  3. How and what types of employers have been qualifying for the Program;
  4. The questionable legality of
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Breaking News: Sweeping Changes to OSHA’s Sweep Auger Enforcement

By Amanda R. Strainis-Walker and Eric J. Conn

The roller coaster ride that has been OSHA’s enforcement policy in connection with work inside grain bins with energized sweep augers has taken another major turn.  After decades of employees working inside grain bins with sweep augers, a string of recent, somewhat confusing, Interpretation Letters issued by OSHA effectively banned the practice outright.  Now, a groundbreaking settlement of an OSHA case against an Illinois grain company became a Final Order of the OSH Review Commission in January, and that settlement renewed the industry’s right to work inside grain bins with energized sweep … Continue Reading

OSHA FAQ Series (FAQ #4: Establishing an OSHA Inspection Team)

Back in March, we answered five frequently asked questions related to OSHA inspections.  We received so much positive feedback from that post, and so many requests to address additional OSHA questions that we decided to launch a monthly series here on the OSHA Law Update blog with posts dedicated to your OSHA Frequently Asked Questions.  For each of the posts in this OSHA FAQ Series, we have included both a text response and a video/webinar response with slides and audio.

In this post, OSHA FAQ #4, we address a question regarding establishing an OSHA Inspection Team, including what roles … Continue Reading

OSHA Forecast: Developments to Watch For In 2013

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you, and Happy 1st Anniversary to the OSHA Law Update blog.  On December 20th, we celebrated our first full year of updates and articles (56 of them) about important OSHA Law topics here on the OSHA Law Update blog.  We would hardly have the energy or enthusiasm to keep the OSHA Law Update current if it were not for all of the incredibly positive feedback, comments, and questions that we have received over the year from all of you.  Thank you for that.

Just as we did last year, … Continue Reading

OSHA FAQ Series (FAQ #3: Delaying the Start of an OSHA Inspection)

Back in March, we answered five frequently asked questions related to OSHA inspections.  We received so much positive feedback from that post, and so many requests to address additional OSHA questions that we decided to launch a monthly series here on the OSHA Law Update Blog for OSHA FAQ posts.  For each of the posts in this OSHA FAQ Series, we have included both a textual response and a video response with slides and audio.

In this post, OSHA FAQ #3, we address a very common question regarding whether (and for how long) employers can ask OSHA to delay … Continue Reading