Continuing the trend observed during President Obama’s first term, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will likely continue its aggressive approach toward enforcement, conducting more inspections, finding more violations, handing down stiffer fines and issuing more press releases critical of employers believed to have violated the applicable regulations. There is no reason to believe that OSHA will ease up in any area; rather, employers should expect a renewed commitment from the agency to expand its reach and impact. Indeed, as part of its site-specific targeting program, OSHA has indicated that in the coming year it plans to inspect at least 1,260 high-hazard, nonconstruction establishments that employ 20 or more workers.
The agency’s latest regulatory agenda contains over 20 new OSHA rules in varying stages of formulation, some of which will be finalized in 2013.
OSHA anticipates publishing a final rule with respect to injury and illness reporting and recording in May 2013. The final rule, for which OSHA first requested comments back in September 2011, will likely require employers to report any work-related in-patient hospitalization, as opposed to only those work-related in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees. Additionally, the new rule may require that all work-related amputations be reported within 24 hours.
The rule would also update the list of industries that are partially exempt from the requirement of maintaining a log of occupational injuries and illnesses, usually due to their relatively low rates of occupational injury and illness.
Other rules that may be forthcoming this year include a new rule for confined spaces in construction, a rule amending the electric power transmission and distribution standard, and an updated walking-surfaces standard.
OSHA’s agenda for the coming year also highlights the agency’s desire to create rules related to combustible dust standards, standards for employees who are exposed to infectious diseases, and standards for employees who are exposed to crystalline silica or beryllium.
OSHA will also be busy developing an injury and illness prevention program rule that will require employers to implement a program that includes planning, implementing, evaluating and improving processes and activities to protect employee safety and health. OSHA also intends to review permissible exposure limits of regulated chemicals
Some of these rules have lingered on the regulatory agenda for over a decade. However, with four years to work without a looming bid for reelection, the Obama administration could take this opportunity to bolster OSHA rules.
While not all of the upcoming rules may apply to you, it is important to ensure that your workplace complies with the ever-expanding rules promulgated by OSHA.
Vedder Price attorneys regularly assist in-house counsel and human resources professionals with occupational safety and health compliance, and in occupational safety and health proceedings, including citation actions, inspections and related discrimination matters.© 2013 Vedder Price
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