Carol Del Angel

While remodelers focus most of their attention on meeting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Fall Protection standard, other recent regulatory developments are flying under the radar. These potential roadblocks include new reporting requirements, pending rules, and trends in enforcement.

Just Enacted

A big change that went into effect on Jan. 1 focuses on when and how employers must report fatalities and injuries. According to the development, employers are required to notify OSHA of:

  • Fatalities within eight hours.
  • In-patient hospitalization of one or more workers within 24 hours.
  • Amputations or loss of an eye within 24 hours.

In the past, companies only had to report accidents that resulted in three or more hospitalizations, and the requirements for reporting amputations and eye loss didn’t exist. Although OSHA has yet to release data on enforcement, it promised to start enforcing the reporting rules as soon as they went into effect.
OSHA is working on a Web portal where companies will be able to report these incidents electronically. Currently, there is no word on when the portal will be ready.

In the Pipeline

The pending rule most likely to affect remodelers is the proposed silica standard. OSHA held public hearings on the proposal in 2014 and says that it will finish analyzing comments from those hearings this June. The standard will likely be enacted after the November 2016 election but before President Obama leaves office in January 2017. (For more on the Silica Rule, see The Feds’ War Against Dust.)

Enforcement Trends

While remodelers can expect little to no change in the number of OSHA inspections that occur this year vs. last, companies receiving citations will likely pay higher fines. This trend is already underway, with the average cost of a federal OSHA fine increasing from $1,897 in 2013 to $2,067 in 2014.

More and more companies are landing in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). There are currently more than 400 firms in SVEP—an almost 25% increase compared to previous years. SVEP concentrates its resources on employers that have shown indifference to workplace safety rules by committing willful or repeated offenses. Companies in the program can expect follow-up inspections at various jobsites.

More OSHA inspections than ever are now generated by employee complaints, thanks to OSHA’s outreach to employees. In 2014, 27% of inspections resulted from complaints, compared to 20% to 24% in previous years. Expect this trend to continue in the years ahead.

In some cases, unjustified complaints have been filed by disgruntled employees—often because they feel that the boss has ignored their concerns. Remodelers can minimize the chance of this by creating a culture where employees can raise safety issues without fear of reprisal. If there is a complaint, the company can protect itself by carefully documenting all training and safety procedures.