OSHA Launches "Aggressive" Workplace
April 30, 2010
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
is implementing a new Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)
and increasing civil penalty amounts.
"For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when
they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA's requirements,"
says Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Higher
penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide
a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish
safe and healthy workplaces for their employees."
The new SVEP is intended to focus OSHA enforcement resources on
recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by demonstrating indifference
to their responsibilities under the law. This supplemental enforcement
tool includes increased OSHA inspections in these worksites, including
mandatory OSHA follow-up inspections, and inspections of other worksites
of the same employer where similar hazards and deficiencies may
be present. OSHA says SVEP will become effective by early June.
Last year, OSHA assembled a work group to evaluate its penalty policies
and found currently assessed penalties are too low to have an adequate
deterrent effect. Based on the group's findings and recommendations,
several administrative changes to the penalty calculation system,
outlined in the agency's Field Operations Manual, are being made.
These administrative enhancements will become effective in the next
several months. The penalty changes will increase the overall dollar
amount of all penalties while maintaining OSHA's policy of reducing
penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith.
The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable
of causing death or serious physical harm, is only $7,000 and the
maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000. The average
penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000
to an average $3,000 to $4,000. Monetary penalties for violations
of the OSH Act have been increased only once in 40 years despite
inflation. The Protecting America's Workers Act would raise these
penalties (for the first time since 1990) to $12,000 and $250,000,
respectively. Future penalty increases would also be tied to inflation.
"OSHA enforcement and penalties are not just a reaction to
workplace tragedies. They serve an important preventive function.
OSHA inspections and penalties must be large enough to discourage
employers from cutting corners or underfunding safety programs to
save a few dollars," says Dr. Michaels.
Those in the glass industry agree that workplace safety and OSHA
compliance is critical for the safety of all employees.
"The float and fabricated glass industry on average has a 27
percent higher incident rate than manufacturing in general (based
on 2008 OSHA data). This makes it all the more important that we
keep our efforts focused on employee safety," says Mike Marsala,
safety and loss control manager for Guardian Industries in Auburn
Hills, Mich. "Safety has always been an integral part of Guardian's
culture and we pride ourselves as being a safety leader in both
our industry and manufacturing in general."
Jason Kleeberger, safety manager for Viracon in Owatonna, Minn.,
agrees that safety must be top priority for any glass company.
"In our industry, the awareness of safety concerns in handling
glass must be continuously evaluated and emphasized, especially
as design trends push for larger and heavier make-up configurations,"
HERE to read more about the SVEP.
HERE to read more on the penalty policy.
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