RISK INSIGHT: Fewer OSHA Inspections in 2016?
OSHA to Introduce New Enforcement Weighting System to Allow For More Thorough Investigations
Beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2016, OSHA will be replacing its current method for allocating resources during inspections. The new Enforcement Weighting System (EWS) was designed to enable OSHA inspectors to allocate more resources when conducting complex inspections. OSHA decided to update its system to better manage the limited amount of resources and personnel that are available to complete on-site inspections. OSHA believes the EWS will enable inspectors to dedicate more time to complete more thorough investigations.
Under the previous system, the agency measured enforcement activity simply by counting the number of inspections. As a result, inspectors were often forced to allocate resources based on the quantity rather than on the seriousness of the hazards. This means there’s a potential that OSHA will conduct fewer inspections, and/or routine/straightforward inspections will receive less time and scrutiny.
This change is a sign that OSHA is serious about emphasizing general duty areas with no vertical standard, especially ergonomics and workplace violence. OSHA has already publicized its enforcement emphasis on acute care hospitals and ergonomic and workplace violence challenges. This follows a serious and escalating ergonomic emphasis on distribution.
The EWS assigns Enforcement Units (EUs) to each inspection based on the degree of complexity associated with the investigation. The table to the right shows proposed EU values for various investigation scenarios.
OSHA has yet to formally release details of the EWS to the public, and it’s unclear whether OSHA will assign a set EU value or take a case-by-case approach for investigations that are not listed in the table above. What is clear is that the EWS will allow inspectors to focus on time- and resource-heavy investigations without it negatively reflecting on their performance. In addition to the above figures, OSHA will assign one-ninth of an EU to investigations or inspections that are often resolved via phone call or email, such as non-formal complaints and rapid response investigations.
In all likelihood, employers under OSHA’s jurisdiction could see an increase in the incidence of certain kinds of investigations—such as ergonomic hazards, chemical exposures and workplace violence. This shift may result in an increase in high-hazard industries being inspected more frequently, making it that much more important for businesses to prioritize OSHA compliance.
Although it will require investments of time and resources up front to establish effective workplace health and safety programs, the information gained through compliance will increase the ability to identify and eliminate workplace hazards, thereby reducing the chance that a worksite will be targeted for a large-scale OSHA inspection.
The above content is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It should not be regarded as legal advice.