The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), under the leadership of the new Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, is no longer a sleepy little agency. In the past two weeks alone, OSHA has published notice of the following:
- establishment of enforcement policies and procedures for the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which "concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations." Under SVEP, enforcement actions for severe violator cases include mandatory follow-up inspections, increased company/corporate awareness of OSHA enforcement, corporate-wide agreements, where appropriate, enhanced settlement provisions, and federal court enforcement.
- intent to hold a series of public stakeholder meetings in June 2010 to obtain input for a future rulemaking "requiring employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program" that will involve "planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving processes and activities that protect employee safety and health."
- stakeholder meetings on the modernization of OSHA's injury and illness data collection system to "gather information…in order to be able to modify its current injury and illness recordkeeping regulation and develop a modernized recordkeeping system in ways that will help OSHA, employers, employees, researchers, and the public prevent workplace injuries and illnesses".
Couple these announcements with OSHA's ongoing activities to develop a standard for combustible dust and update its Hazard Communication Standard, and you have a rather robust regulatory agenda for the agency. Congress wants to empower OSHA, too, and is considering legislation (HR 2067/S 1580, the Protecting America's Workers Act) to give the agency even greater enforcement authority.
So the moral of the story is…if you haven't been paying attention to OSHA for a while, now is a good time to wake up.