In January, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it would expand surveillance for what are known as ‘instance-by-instance’ (IBI) citations.
Its new enforcement plan empowers Regional Administrators and Area Directors to apply stiffer penalties for IBI citations in a way that will achieve a “deterrent effect.” This new guidance covers general industries, as well as agriculture, maritime and construction industries.
Workplace Accidents Do Happen
Concern about workplace safety is justified. In 2021, Georgia employers had a total of 187 fatal work injuries, while 5,190 fatal work injuries were recorded nationwide.
The number of nonfatal accidents is much higher, however. In Georgia alone, more than 78,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2019, an incidence rate of 2.5 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers.
The top four causes of workplace injury are:
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments
- Overexertion, bodily stress
- Falls, slips and trips
- Unintended use of, or contact with, equipment or objects
OSHA Steps Up Penalties
The agency is increasing its focus on high-risk industries and employers who repeatedly violate safety regulations. With the new enforcement plan, OSHA inspectors will be looking for serious, “high gravity” violations, such as those related to hazardous energy control (lockout/tagout), machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, falls and trenching.
Penalties for such violations are stiffer, and OSHA personnel have the authority to increase the number of citations they issue as a means of discouraging noncompliance. In other words, companies should be prepared that they may be used as an example for others.
Are You Prepared for an OSHA Visit?
With the new enforcement plan taking effect, employment law experts note that employers should expect more frequent and aggressive inspections. OSHA normally performs its inspections without advanced notice. In 2021, OSHA conducted 24,333 inspections, but the COVID-19 pandemic affected normal operations. The number of annual inspections is usually well over 32,000. There are steps that companies can take today to assess their vulnerabilities and prepare for an unannounced visit. MarathonHR can assist you with forming solid risk management and safety policies that will protect your business.