President Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 included funding for increased enforcement by the Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). A focus of that effort will be on small businesses, including businesses with as few as 20 people. The visits will include not only workplace safety stuff, but also labor laws and reviewing whether the workers are contractors or employees.
Here is a summary of some of the OSHA plans included in the budget proposal:
- 25 additional employees for enforcement. According to OSHA, these 25 additional inspectors would “expand the agency’s enforcement presence.”
- More inspections. OSHA estimates it will conduct 41,000 inspections from October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2012. That’s a 6.5 percent increase from the number of inspections conducted during fiscal 2010.
- Smaller businesses targeted. The OSHA Site-Specific Targeting (SST) Program focuses inspections on businesses that report high injury rates. For the first time, SST will target businesses with 20 or more employees. Previously, the minimum number of employees was 40.
- More publicity about “severe violators.” The OSHA Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) will develop a website displaying the names of SVEP employers. As of the end of 2010, OSHA categorized 89 businesses as SVEP cases. An interesting note: 78 percent of the SVEP cases were small businesses with less than 100 employees.
- New emphasis programs for inspections. In 2012, three new National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) will start: Primary Metals, Diacetyl Substitutes, and Isocyanates. Other emphasis programs will continue, including Recordkeeping, which focuses on employers that underreport injuries and illnesses and also examines safety incentive programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries.
- Increased corporate-wide settlements. OSHA plans to implement a new directive for its inspectors before 2012 on Corporate-Wide Settlement Agreements (CSAs) for multi-site employers. CSAs address safety and health hazards that exist at more than one employer location. The new directive will emphasize using these agreements for smaller employers with more than one location.
- States must meet federal standards. OSHA will issue comprehensive evaluations of all state OSHA plans again in fiscal year 2012. OSHA wants to work with states to ensure their safety programs are equal to the federal one, particularly in enforcement.
- OSHA inspectors broaden their reach. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is stepping up efforts to identify misclassification of employees as independent contractors. OSHA will train its inspectors to recognize where misclassification is occurring and to refer such situations to the proper DOL division for enforcement.