How is a business to know when it will be up for an OSHA audit? Previously, most OSHA audits were triggered by three circumstances: i) when the workplace experienced a serious accident ii) when an employee complained to OSHA; and iii) when an OSHA inspector observed an issue with any business.
On occasion, OSHA randomly picked businesses for audit. OSHA reported that in FY 2013, with its state partners, 2200 inspectors were assigned to cover 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites across the U.S. Federal inspections were conducted at 39,228 worksites, while State inspectors covered an additional 50,436 places of work.
With emphasis on reactive rather than proactive enforcement, the probability of being picked for a random audit is so low that all fears of an audit were lulled in the minds of most business owners.
Auditing is merely one dimension of the role of OSHA. OSHA’s mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Since its establishment in 1970, workplace fatalities have been reduced from 38 per day 17 per day in 2012. Over this same period the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses at work has been reduced from 10.9 to 3.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, as per a Bureau of Labor Statistics news release. While on the surface these improvements seem significant, in recent years the rate of decline has slowed.
Site Specific Targeting Program: A few years ago, OSHA implemented Site Specific Targeting. In 2014, the targeting plan has been refined, and commitment to increased enforcement is stronger than ever. In its efforts to contain these incidents, OSHA is committed to looking at the industries and worker types which are most affected; irrespective of the employer’s size. Evaluations of reported incidents examined days out of work, whether the worker needed to be transferred to another job, and whether the job responsibilities had to be restricted as a result of the accident or injury. A national average was determined, and all companies with more than twenty employees whose incident rate exceeds that norm (1.8) are targeted for an upcoming audit. These companies, with an incident rate greater than 7, can be assured that an OSHA audit is in their near future.
Initial focus will be on the industry sectors that have logged the highest fatalities and incidents. These include manufacturing, trucking, warehousing, air transportation and courier services, automobiles, construction materials, scarp and waste, groceries, poultry products, department stores and medical facilities.
Penalties: OSHA’s penalties are high, and can go up to $50000 or more for violations such as:
What Can Employers Do?
Employers in high risk industries, or who have incident rates that exceed the norm, should find out if they are on the hit list and take corrective action to fix any issues with their safety initiatives, documentation and incident reporting process.
Employers can also benchmark themselves against the industry to know if their operations meet the required norms for safety, health and compliance. They may also periodically conduct thorough audits of their own operations. This may be an expensive measure, which will pale in comparison to what an OSHA audit could potentially cost.
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7 + = fifteen
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