October 2022 OSHA Quicktakes

Protecting Workers from Heat-Related Illnesses and Fatalities

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that between 2015 and 2019, environmental heat cases resulted in an average of 35 fatalities per year and an average of 2,700 cases with days away from work. However, the total number of heat-related fatalities may be underreported and improperly diagnosed. 

OSHA established a National Emphasis Program to protect employees from heat-related hazards and resulting injuries and illnesses from working in outdoor and indoor environments. The initiative is aimed at encouraging early-intervention by employers, emphasizing preparedness in areas that will experience heatwaves (as announced by the National Weather Service). 

These strategies will be accompanied by a combination of enforcement, outreach to employers, and compliance assistance. This includes a 100% increase in heat inspections above the baseline average of years 2017 through 2021. 

To comply with the latest guidelines, Safety Reports updated the Construction – 1926 Checklist in our Safety Inspections App, which we would be happy to demo for you. The final version of “Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings” has not yet been published, but when it is, we will make additional updates. For the full details of the directive, click below.

READ THE DIRECTIVE

OSHA Expands Severe Violator Enforcement Program

OSHA expanded their criteria for placement in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). These changes will broaden the program’s scope and open the possibility that additional industries will fall within its parameters. 

Since 2010, SVEP has concentrated on inspecting employers who continue to expose workers to very serious dangers, even after being cited for them. With the expansion of SVEP criteria, OSHA will ensure more workers are protected from consistently unsafe conditions.

The updated criteria includes the following:  

  • The expanded program criteria now includes all hazards and OSHA standards. The old criteria was limited to cases involving fatalities, three or more hospitalizations, high-emphasis hazards, the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical (process safety management), and enforcement actions classified as egregious.
  • Employers with at least two citations for willful or repeated violations will be placed in SVEP.
  • Employers who receive failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of high-gravity serious violations will be placed in SVEP.
  • Three years after receiving verification that all program-related hazards have been abated, employers can be removed from SVEP. 
  • Employers can reduce time spent in SVEP to two years if they consent to an enhanced settlement agreement that includes use of an environmental, health and safety management system.
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OSHA Hosts Stakeholder Meeting to Update PSM Standards

On October 12th, OSHA hosted a stakeholder meeting to gather input on potential changes to the Process Safety Management Standards (PSM). PSM was first established in 1992 following several catastrophic chemical-release incidents. The standard requires employers to implement safety programs that identify, evaluate and control highly hazardous chemicals. 

Since its publication in 1992, the PSM standard has yet to be updated. With the meeting held on the 12th, OSHA considered several potential changes to the scope and provisions of the current PSM standard, including: 

  • Clarifying the exemption for atmospheric storage tanks;
  • Expanding the scope to include oil and gas-well drilling and servicing;
  • Resuming enforcement for oil and gas production facilities;
  • Expanding PSM coverage and requirements for reactive chemical hazards;
  • Updating and expanding the list of highly hazardous chemicals in Appendix A;
  • Clarifying the scope of the retail facilities exemption; and
  • Defining the limits of a PSM-covered process.

 OSHA will coordinate with the EPA to ensure all revisions and rule changes are complementing each organization to ensure environmental and community safety.

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Workers Voice Summit Recap

The three-day Workers Voice Summit hosted by OSHA (Sept. 27-29) focused on trends affecting workers and the need to foster open dialogue between workers, employers, and OSHA to identify workplace problems and find solutions. “The more that OSHA understands the challenges workers face and the more workers understand OSHA’s work, the easier it will be for us to find solutions together,” Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary to OSHA, remarked at the event in Washington. 

 Participants also discussed the benefits of advancing equity and making the department more accessible to underserved workers and their advocates. This intended goal of transparency and dialogue between workers, employers and OSHA has been part of a larger initiative with the department’s effort to improve job quality nationwide.

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Joe Kahler
Author: Joe Kahler

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