Secretary of Labor Promises More OSHA Inspections
By: Jason Bischoff
What happens over 30,000 times a year, strikes fear in the hearts of safety managers and workers, can cost your company large amounts of money and may derail your workplace reputation? If you said, “arc flash injuries,” you’d be correct.
You’d also be correct if you said, “OSHA Inspections.” However, while one of these occurrences is trending downward, the other is set to increase, according to a recent announcement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
Nobody Expects OSHA Inspections
Part of the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established to set and enforce regulations, all in the name of protecting workers. Running a variety of programs focused on preventing injuries, educating employers and employees, and ultimately taking a proactive approach to worker protection, OSHA’s goal is to ensure all employees have a workplace which is free from recognized safety and health hazards.
Knowing this, one of the ways they accomplish this is through unexpected inspections. Among the most anxiety-inducing times at a workplace or jobsite, the words “OSHA inspection” strike fear into even the most confident safety professionals at companies with enviable safety cultures. OSHA compliance officers’ weapons include fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and a large book of regulations to cite.
Many Things Could Trigger an OSHA Inspection
Whether the inspection was triggered due to a health and safety complaint from a worker, a referral, a reported severe injury or illness, or simply because your time has come up, an OSHA compliance officer often shows up unannounced, presenting his or her credentials and kicking off a stressful period lasting anywhere from one day to multiple weeks.
That said, while you may not be prepared, your compliance officer is. Before conducting an inspection, OSHA compliance officers research the inspection history of a worksite using various data sources, review the operations and processes in use and the standards most likely to apply. They gather appropriate personal protective equipment and testing instruments to measure potential hazards.
What Are Compliance Officers Looking for?
Over the course of the inspection, the compliance officer will spend a lot of time looking at processes and people, identifying hazards and issuing citations which often result in fines. Understandably, compliance officers have a plan, often looking at hazards specific to your industry and commonly citing specific violations.
DOL Announces 76 New Compliance Officers, Increased Inspection Frequency
It is usually not expected to have an OSHA compliance officer drop by. However, with 76 new inspectors completing their training in the next one to three years, better use of data to identify potentially unsafe workplaces, and a commitment to increasing efficiency, you can expect an inspection to be more likely.
Continued Increase in Inspections with More on the Way
In recent testimony to the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta reported that even with a smaller budget and fewer regulations, the DOL and OSHA are operating more efficiently than ever.
In FY 2018, and in FY 2017, OSHA conducted more than 32,000 inspections each year, exceeding the FY 2016 number. These results are impressive particularly given that OSHA dedicated substantial resources in FY 2018 to hiring and training new inspectors.
In August 2017, OSHA was provided blanket approval to hire needed inspectors to carry out its important work. The result was the hiring of 76 new inspectors in FY 2018. The timeframe for new inspectors that join the Department to be prepared to conduct inspections can vary between one to three years depending on their prior experience and complexity of the inspections they may carry out.
During this time, these new hires do not generally conduct independent inspections. OSHA has been hard at work to onboard and train new inspectors and expects to have a significant increase in inspectors in FY 2019.
In FY 2018, in addition, OSHA personnel made 26,362 compliance assistance visits covering more than 970,000 workers and ensuring that 135,021 hazards were identified/corrected. The estimated savings in injuries and costs prevented by this program exceed $1.3 billion.
Electrical Safety Culture
With more inspections on the horizon and electrical hazards consistently appearing on OSHA’s top ten most cited violations list, the best way to avoid fines and potential reputation damage that comes from an OSHA inspection is to work towards developing a culture of electrical safety.
At Enespro PPE, we believe that there are many ways to protect workers, instill a culture of safety, and be able to confidently say “we put safety first.”
While we understand the job of PPE is to provide your last line of defense in the hierarchy of controls, we listened to feedback from safety professionals and electricians to design Enespro arc flash PPE with dramatically improved comfort & mobility to solve many of the problems workers complained about for years. Get to know more about establishing safety best practices by reading the resources below and learn more about our products here.
- An Electrical Safety Program: Your First Step to a Culture of Safety
- The Perils of Safety Management: Why Don’t Employees Wear Required PPE?
- Changing Minds in Electrical Safety
- Buying Direct: The Fastest Way to Arc Flash PPE
- PPE and Enterprise Risk Management
Beyond OSHA: Developing an Electrical Safety Culture
With OSHA inspections on the rise, inspection technology improving, and inspectors becoming more efficient, you can’t just “put on a good face” for the OSHA compliance officer. Safe behaviors and mindsets need to be instilled into the way your company operates and the way your people work. If you are looking to go beyond programs and implement a true culture of electrical safety, we’ve written a guide that can help you. Developing a Culture of Electrical Safety explores the differences between a compliant program and a true culture of safety while offering tips that can make your people safer. Preview this guide below and download it here.
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