OSHA had a busy year in 2019, increasing the number of inspections completed compared with the previous two years. While the number of inspections and issued final rulings declined relative to historical averages, the agency took several significant steps on the regulatory front in 2019, JD Supra reports. The publication takes a look back at some of the most impactful regulatory changes made by OSHA in the past 12 months.
Final Rule Revising the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” Regulation
On January 25, 2019, OSHA published a final rule revising the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” regulation promulgated in 2016 under the prior administration. The original 2016 rule required employers with 250 or more employees to electronically file information from their OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301 with OSHA. The Agency stated at the time that it would make the data publicly available.
The January 2019 final rule rolled back some of these requirements. Employers are now only required to submit electronically the general summary data regarding recordable injuries and illnesses from Form 300A and are no longer responsible for submitting electronically information from their Forms 300 or 301. The new final rule reflects OSHA’s desire to protect worker privacy, with the Agency acknowledging that the collection of potentially sensitive personal health information, such as descriptions of employee injuries, birth dates of injured employees, and the location where such injuries took place contained in the Forms 300 or 301, would create a privacy risk.
OSHA’s Standard Improvement Project IV Final Rule
On May 14, 2019, OSHA issued a final rule as part of its ongoing Standards Improvement Project (SIP). Consistent with the project’s rationale of reducing regulatory burdens while maintaining or enhancing worker safety and health, the updated regulations encompassed in the final rule generally simplified employer efforts both to comply with the Agency’s requirements as well as to determine how compliance can be achieved. For example, the rule replaces 31 pages of regulatory text on how to manage hazardous chemicals in the construction industry with a cross reference to an identical standard for general industry.
With respect to enforcement, OSHA recently launched a program aimed at combating high injury and illness rates—the “Site-Specific Targeting Program” or “SST.” It is now OSHA’s primary site-specific, programmed inspection initiative. Implemented across national, regional, and area OSHA offices, the SST program uses injury and illness Form 300A data electronically submitted by employers with 20 or more employees to identify workplaces for inspection. Previously, OSHA had used injury and illness information collected under the OSHA Data Initiative. The SST program applies to both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors, but excludes construction worksites. It is not intended to include office-only work environments. Employers that are approved participants in the Pre-Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program may be granted a deferral from OSHA programmed inspections, including SST.