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An important OSHA enforcement program has major flaws

Last week, we wrote about the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has pledged to divert more of its resources to inspecting high-hazard worksites in 2014. In addition, the agency has opted to undergo a thorough evaluation of its high-hazard inspection process to determine whether or not it is effective. These are welcome developments in the agency’s evolution.

However, it seems that OSHA needs to focus a greater deal of attention on another of its programs. Specifically, it seems that the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program is currently riddled with problematic flaws. This program attempts to hold the very worst workplace safety violators accountable for failure to prevent workplace accidents and for failure to protect workers. However, the program is not currently operating as it should.

The program has been operational for four years. Therefore, it is still a fairly new initiative but it has been around long enough that OSHA should have reasonably worked out many of the program’s start-up kinks by now. However, this program that is meant to focus both scrutiny and resources on repeated and willfully unsafe employers has failed to highlight many companies that repeatedly report workplace fatalities.

As a former OSHA assistant regional administrator recently emphasized, “There's something wrong with a worst violator program where the companies that have killed the most people are not on the list, and they do need to fix that.” Yes, OSHA certainly does need to fix that and needs to do so urgently for the benefit of all workers present in these workplaces riddled with safety violations and risk of fatal accidents.

Source: Chem.Info, “Flaws Found In OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program,” Lise Olsen, March 10, 2014

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