Core Safety Group

OSHA’s New Provision Makes Waves

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s newest regulation is raising concerns for large employers nationwide—specifically general contractors.The new rule, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, requires employers to electronically submit injury and illness data in addition to their onsite OSHA forms. This data will allow OSHA to create up-to-date reports on companies nationwide with above-average injury rates, which will improve safety for workers. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports data on injuries by industry and occupation, but has never been company-specific.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s newest regulation is raising concerns for large employers nationwide—specifically general contractors.

The new rule, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, requires employers to electronically submit injury and illness data in addition to their onsite OSHA forms. This data will allow OSHA to create up-to-date reports on companies nationwide with above-average injury rates, which will improve safety for workers. Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports data on injuries by industry and occupation, but has never been company-specific.

Through research of behavioral economics, OSHA reports that sharing injury information publicly will “nudge” employers to prioritize safety training and implementation. More attention to safety will save the lives and limbs of many construction workers and will ultimately help employers’ bottom lines as well. In addition, OSHA can focus on inspecting companies with above-average injury rates, making better use of the organization’s time and resources.

However, some companies are concerned that transparency of injury data could do more harm than good. “This new requirement will force companies to publicly reveal confidential business details that had, in the past, been considered privileged and confidential,” wrote Edwin Foulke Jr., partner at Fisher Phillips law offices. “It will give undo access to business processes to competitors, plaintiffs’ lawyers, community activists and union organizers,” all of which could use the information against the company.

The new provision also prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness. Though the Occupational Safety and Health act already prohibits any person from discriminating against an employee who reports a fatality, injury or illness, the rule will also require companies to inform employees of their right to report injuries free from retaliation.

OSHA will be able to cite an employer for retaliation against an employee—even if the employee did not file a complaint, or if the employer has a program that deters or discourages reporting through the threat of retaliation. This clause is causing concern for large corporations—many of which have alcohol and drug-testing policies for anyone involved in a work-related accident. Because OSHA does not define “retaliation” against employees, there is room for interpretation—interpretation that may be made only through example. Companies, of course, can defend their reasoning when accused of retaliation by OSHA, but if their defense is not justifiable, they could face a large fine.

The new OSHA provision was created to protect workers, increase the priority for workplace safety programs, and raise awareness of companies with high standards for safety or above-average injury rates. But with effective safety training and procedures, employers can significantly negate their risk for workplace injuries and fatalities—and avoid an unpleasant visit from OSHA representatives.

To have your current safety program assessed or to implement a new safety training program within your company, contact CORE Safety Group.

What You Need to Know About OSHA’s New Silica Exposure Control Rule

The RuleThe Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has recently published the new Silica Final Rule which is now slated to take full effect in September of 2017. The rule will affect all construction employers with scopes of work that create an exposure to silica containing dust.

By: Jorge Torres, CSP, CHST 
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has recently published the new Silica Final Rule which is now slated to take full effect in September of 2017, not in June as previously stated. The rule will affect all construction employers with scopes of work that create an exposure to silica containing dust. Although some scopes of work such as concrete and masonry work seem fairly obvious, others are not. For instance, employees engaged in housekeeping activities that include the sweeping and/or collecting of silica containing dust; interior work contractors installing cementitious products such as cement board or those working on stone such as granite or quartz. The important thing to remember is that the rule is not scope specific but exposure level specific.Current exposure levels require worker protection from exposure at or above 100 micrograms of silica per cubic meter (µ/m3) of air. This is a minute amount of dust which is barely visible to the naked eye. The proposed rule lowers this exposure level to 50 µ/m3 and establishes an actionable level of 25 µ/m3. What this means is that an employer must take action to address exposure once the concentration level reaches 25 µ/m3. There are several methods to achieve protection including engineering, administrative and the use of personal protective equipment. Although engineering controls are emphasized, OSHA does not mandate one method over the other; rather they establish a performance based measurement to determine compliance. In simple terms, a worker exposure to silica means that whatever methods the employer established were ineffective, therefore the employer is considered out of compliance and may be held accountable under the regulations.

Industry Pushback

Since the announcement, leading organizations within the masonry, concrete and other industries involved in the production, installation and use of silica containing products have voiced severe opposition to the rule. There are several reasons for the opposition including the feasibility of implementing the required engineering controls, the costs associated with these controls, the required medical testing and screening and the impact the new regulations will have on small businesses.

The new rule places an emphasis on the use of engineering controls when addressing silica exposure issues. Engineering controls refers to methods which permanently address and eliminate a hazard. As it relates to silica exposure, the two preferred engineering controls are the use of wet method for cutting, grinding or polishing silica containing materials or the use of vacuum systems. Both of these methods remove the exposure and eliminate the need for personal protective equipment. Unfortunately, there are costs associated with implementing these controls in a construction setting. Even higher costs are tied to the use of respiratory protection including medical testing, respirator selection and purchase, training, etc. It is these costs that the industry refers to. Another valid concern is the fact that OSHA has not been very proficient in enforcing the previous requirements and the industry in general questions whether the agency will fall back into the same pattern of non-enforcement after employers have invested in meeting the new requirements.

What You Should Do

Although the industry pushback is strong, no legal actions have been filed at the time of this writing; however, it is still possible for court challenges to occur. Until then, employers affected by the rule should begin evaluating their scopes of work in preparation for full implementation slated for June 23, 2017. Some of the initial actions include developing a Silica Control Plan that identifies specific activities that create an exposure, what the exposure levels are and what control methods are available. The program must include details on PPE selection, medical testing and employee training.

For more information or to have your current program assessed, contact CORE Safety Group.

OSHA Fines to Increase by 80% Effective August 2016

A recent bipartisan federal budget act signed by President Obama back in November of 2015 will increase employer OSHA fines for the first time in 25 years.

OSHA Fines to Increase by 80% Effective August 2016

A recent bipartisan federal budget act signed by President Obama back in November of 2015 will increase employer OSHA fines for the first time in 25 years. The bill strikes a 1990 exemption under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act that prevented OSHA from increasing its fine amounts among employers. The new agreement will require that OSHA make fine adjustments annually in order to keep up with the rate of inflation. This includes an initial “catch-up” adjustment that will increase the current fine amounts by nearly 80% in August of 2016.

OSHA Maximum Penalty Adjustment August 2016

Violation Type Current Maximum Penalty 2016 Maximum Penalty*
Other than Serious Violation: $7,000 $12,600
Serious Violation: $7,000 $12,600
Repeat Violation: $70,000 $126,000
Willful Violation: $70,000 $126,000

The fine increase is one of many adjustments that the administration has imposed to punish so-called bad employers over the last couple of years. Weighted inspections, new reporting requirements and the agency’s authority to impose penalties and reduced “good faith” discounts are among several examples of OSHA’s efforts to increase its enforcement activities.

Employers should consider taking these steps in order to demonstrate a commitment to safety and possibly eliminate or reduce a potential OSHA citation.

  • Complete an assessment of your current safety program to ensure it is up-to-date with recent changes such as the globally harmonized system (GHS) and confined space requirements (construction industry).
  • Complete an audit of your workplace to ensure job hazards are identified and make immediate corrections.
  • Ensure that employees have received proper training and that training is well documented. The OSHA 10 hour and OSHA 30 hour courses are great starting points for covering multiple safety topics.
  • Have a program or protocols for dealing with an OSHA inspection. Many employers provide additional information to OSHA inspectors that they shouldn’t.

For more information on this article, or if you need assistance with OSHA defense or safety consulting needs, please contact us on our contact page or by calling 888-250-1830 to learn more about our nationwide safety consulting services.

New Nevada OSHA Training Requirements

Effective January 1, 2010 all supervisors and employees working on construction sites must complete an OSHA 10 Hour or OSHA 30 Hour training course no later than 15 working days beyond their hire date.

Effective January 1, 2010 all supervisors and employees working on construction sites must complete an OSHA 10 Hour or OSHA 30 Hour training course no later than 15 working days beyond their hire date.

Supervisors are required to have the OSHA 30 Hour course certification. All other employees are required to have the OSHA 10 Hour course certification.

In addition, Nevada Assembly Bill 148 will only recognize OSHA 10 Hour and OSHA 30 Hour cards issued within the past 5 years. Any certification completed beyond 5 years will be considered expired.

Compliance failure can result in escalating fines ranging from $500 for the first violation to $70,000 for willful violation. The third and subsequent violations are considered willful violations under the new regulation.

To get more information on the OSHA 30 Hour Course, click here.

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