Compliance with OSHA | DCR Workforce Blog

Compliance with OSHA

osha-complianceSince November 2008, Wal-Mart has been disputing, at enormous legal cost, a citation for inadequate crowd management leading to the death of a Jamaican temp worker in Valley Stream, N.Y. during a post-Thanksgiving sale.

Protection– to one and all:

The U.S. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 4,693 workplace fatalities in 2011, almost on par with 2010, which registered 4690 workplace. . In other words, every single work day has seen 18 families not having a family member return home from work!

In 2011, the Census of Fatal Injuries started tracking incidents involving temporary workers, spurred by reports that contractors face higher levels of workplace safety issues, due in large part to the absence of safety training.

Workplaces are peer groups and everyone, without exception, must be assured of a risk-free, safe and secure work environment. When a new permanent or temporary worker comes on board – to handle hazardous work, employers cannot ignore the need to have each worker sufficiently protected through appropriate gear, effective training and a support system in case of an accidental injury.

OSHA’s Strong Arm:

The Department of Labor has a clear-cut agenda and budget to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and achieve protection at the workplace for all employees. OSHA’s message of no tolerance and swift action can be ignored by an employer only at a very steep cost. Under the OSHA:

  • Large employers with poor safety records face enhanced criminal felony penalties. The injured workers and/or their families participate in the penalty assessment exercise.
  • The OSHA verifies the illness and injury records of all employers.
  • Assessment teams keep a close eye on specific industries or hazards, including refineries, chemical plants and facilities creating combustible dust.   These teams conduct unannounced inspections, reviewing safety documentation and records and requiring enhancements to the regulations.
  • OSHA also works closely with the Department of Justice to ensure criminal prosecution where appropriate.  Information about violators is posted online.
  • While working to improve the new standards applicable to the various industries, OSHA has strictly instructed the employers to ensure that workplaces are free from ‘recognized hazards’ which could cause injury or death. OSHA’s website also helps employers understand the various rules and guidance for reporting employee data accurately.

OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program – SVEP:

Prevention is the only cure for such violations and OSHA has vowed to prevent incidents through timely intervention and strict measures like the Severe Violators’ List. The program focuses on employers who continually disregard their obligations to their workers and willfully and repeatedly exposing employees to hazards in the workplace which result in a fatality or catastrophic situation.

Once an employer gets on this list, within 45 days OSHA undertakes the following actions:

  • Conducts an increased number of inspections and spot checks of the company at each of its locations
  • Imposes higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement on the employer
  • Penalizes willful safety violations $250,000 per violation

To be removed from the SVEP, an employer would need to pay all penalties, resolve all violations and complete all settlements. If an employer fails to meet the criteria for resolution and closure, OSHA does offer another re-evaluation, only after an additional 3 year period!

Safety at all times:

Employers are required to implement an effective and up-to-date safety and health program, provide employee training and have a proper process for the management of all equipment.  Employee training on safety policy including safety procedures, incident reporting and mitigation of safety hazard should be a part of every worker’s on-boarding processes. Training should be provided in a language and vocabulary the worker can understand.

Companies using temporary workers must also ensure that the workers received proper safety.  When incidents occur, the company and the supplier of the contract worker can both be considered liable.  To ensure compliance with OSHA standards, conduct internal audits continuously brief supervisors and workers on safety procedures, conduct internal audits of all facilities, and stay abreast of injury trends avoid repeating the mistakes made by the other employers.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.