The Vision of OSHA Reply

On October 15, 2010, OSHA Assistant Secretary, Dr. David Michaels sent a letter to all OSHA personnel that outlined the progress being made to transform the agency.  This letter was an update to a July 19 document Michaels issued to OSHA staff, “OSHA at Forty: New Challenges and New Directions.” In his July letter, Michaels discussed transforming OSHA by focusing on nine areas.

  1. Stronger Enforcement
    OSHA is increasing its inspection activity and imposing more stringent penalties.  OSHA has shifted its employees from compliance assistance to enforcement and plans to hire additional enforcement officers. OSHA conducted 40,600 total inspections during Fiscal Year 2010, compared to 39,004 inspections during Fiscal Year 2009.

    OSHA is issuing more press releases that explain more clearly why a specific employer was cited. “The primary purpose of our enforcement program is deterrence.  By inspecting workplaces and issuing and publicizing penalties where violations are found, we hope that all employers will recognize the risk they take by not abating serious hazards,” wrote Michaels in his October letter.

    OSHA will be changing the way that it calculates penalties.  An outline of the changes can be found here:  http://www.osha.gov/dep/administrative-penalty.html

  2. Ensure workers have a voice
    OSHA is reaching out to vulnerable workers who may be low pay, non-English speaking, low literacy, or not in a labor organization through events like the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety.  Workers must know about their rights under the law and feel that they can exercise those rights.  OSHA is reviewing the Whistleblower Protection Program and ensuring that officers talk to workers privately and confidentially during inspections.
  3. Refocus and Strengthen Compliance Assistance Programs
    OSHA is refocusing its compliance assistance programs.  Michaels still supports programs like the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), but the funding has been redirected to focus on enforcement.  OSHA will develop more compliance assistance materials that all workers can understand and use.
  4. Change Workplace Culture
    OSHA seeks to improve the workplace safety culture, so that employers do not merely just do what’s necessary to comply with OSHA standards.  Employers must “find and fix” all workplace hazards.  This does not just apply when there is a particular hazard covered by an OSHA standard.  This change in culture would require employers to implement risk-based safety programs and focus on hazard assessment and control.
  5. Develop Innovative Approaches to Addressing Hazards: Improve Intra-Agency Cooperation
    OSHA is working to ensure that directors and field operations personnel work together closely and cooperatively.  OSHA will improve its coordination with other agencies whose work is closely aligned, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  6. Improve and Modernize Workplace Injury and Illness Tracking
    OSHA is concerned that employers may be under-recording or incorrectly reporting injuries on the OSHA 300 log. Injury and illness data that is reported to OSHA is used to target inspections.  Under the Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program (NEP), OSHA has conducted 187 inspections and found recordkeeping violations in almost 50% of the inspections.  OSHA is looking into electronic recordkeeping programs in order to obtain more up-to-date information and better focus NEPs. 
  7. Strengthen OSHA’s use of Science
    OSHA is going to begin addressing the outdated Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), many of which were developed in the 1970s.  Also, there are many chemicals for which a PEL has not been developed.  OSHA held a web forum and received 130 nominations for chemicals that should be added to the list. 
  8. Conduct OSHA’s work with transparency
    OSHA will share useful information with people.  For example, OSHA is posting employer specific injury and illness data and sampling data results.  The sampling data from OSHA inspections can be found on the web and accessed at: www.osha.gov/opengov/healthsamples.html
  9. Strengthen state OSHA plans
    OSHA evaluated the operation of 25 State Plans to ensure that there are not problems with the state-run programs.  OSHA found that many State Plans were operating effectively, but also found some Plans with discrepancies that OSHA will begin to address. 

For your information, below are some other OSHA updates which were not addressed in the above nine areas which may be of interest.

Injury and Illness Prevention Program
OSHA is developing a rule that would require employers to have a written safety and health program that would be referred to as an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. 

Even if a hazard is not regulated under a specific standard, developing programs to control hazards is required under the General Duty Clause.

Severe Violator Enforcement Program
OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) concentrates resources on inspecting employers who commit willful or repeated violations or fail to abate previously issued violations.  Michaels said in the press release outlining the SVEP, “For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA’s requirements.  Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.” Once an employer is placed in the SEVP, OSHA may conduct enhanced follow-up inspections and inspections of the other locations of the employer.

Site Specific Targeting Program
OSHA is targeting select high-hazard workplaces where the highest rates of injuries and illness occur.  Based on injury and illness data, OSHA developed a list of 4,100 facilities and will randomly select employers to inspect.

Recordkeeping National Emphasis Programs (NEP)
OSHA adjusted the Recordkeeping NEP to focus on larger worksites with higher injury rates.  The NEP is scheduled to run through February, 2012.   

Most Frequently Cited Standards
OSHA published its list of the most frequently cited standards during Fiscal Year 2010 (October 1, 2009- September 30, 2010).  At the top of the list for general industry was the Hazard Communication Standard, followed by Respiratory Protection, Ladders and Lockout/Tagout.   http://www.osha.gov/Top_Ten_Standards.html

For more information or if you would like assistance with any of your Health and Safety programs, contact Colleen Walsh at cwalsh@capaccio.com or 508.970.0033 extension 129.

Massachusetts Contingency Plan – Requirements for Chemical Releases to the Air Reply

As we are more than half-way through 2010, it is a good time to review requirements relating to chemical releases to the air from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) perspective.  As opposed to releases to soil or water, reporting of releases to air is often unclear or overlooked.  This is typically because, due to the nature of an air release, the highest priority becomes coordinating and conducting the necessary rapid remedial response. 

Most chemical releases to the air require MassDEP notification as soon as possible, but not more than 2 hours after obtaining knowledge that the release or threat of release meets one or more of the following:

  • A sudden, continuous or intermittent release or a threat of release to the environment of a hazardous material when:
    • the quantity of the release is or is likely to be equal to or greater than the applicable Reportable Quantity, and
    • it is likely that the release occurred within any period of 24 consecutive hours or less
  • A threat of release to the environment of a hazardous material when:
    • a release or threat of release of a hazardous material, in any quantity or concentration, that poses or could pose an Imminent Hazard
  • A release to the environment which results in the presence of hazardous material vapors within buildings, structures, or underground utility conduits at a concentration equal to or greater than 10% of the Lower Explosive Limit
  • A release to the environment of reactive or explosive hazardous material which threatens human health or safety
  • A release to a roadway that endangers public safety
  • A release to the environment that poses a significant risk to human health when present for even a short period of time
  • A release to the environment which produces readily apparent effects to human health, including respiratory distress or dermal irritation.

The MCP does allow for a delay in notification if one of the following extenuating circumstances can be established by a preponderance of evidence in which case notification must be made as soon as possible:

  • A lack of reasonably-available communication equipment at the site of the release or threat of release
  • A need to take actions prior to notification in order to mitigate or prevent an Imminent Hazard and/or threat to public safety, and/or
  • physical injury to the person responsible for notifying caused by or associated with the release or threat of release, when the injury reasonably prevents that person from notifying

In recent years, the MassDEP has been placing a priority on issuing penalties for violations for failure to notify in a timely manner.  The MassDEP does have a provision for retracting a release notification within 60 days if it is determined that the released amount is below the applicable MassDEP Reportable Quantity.  Therefore, in order to avoid a violation, it is better to report a release of unknown quantity than delay notification until the released quantity is confirmed.

For more information please call Dawn Horter (508) 970-0033 ext. 118 or email dhorter@capaccio.com.

Regulated by Your Customers Reply

The words environment, health and safety can bring thoughts of “compliance” to one’s mind.  The regulatory agencies MassDEP, EPA and OSHA are a reminder to us that compliance requirements are being enforced and must be met to avoid penalties or fines. This was true until companies that you sell your products to (i.e., your customers) began getting serious about something they call “supply chain management.”  Supply chain management is when your customers try to manage their risks by becoming regulators themselves.

The biggest company in the world, Wal-Mart, is one of the companies that have been pushing the envelope by “greening” their supply chain.  The company has developed a rigid 15-point sustainability index that must be met by more than 61,000 suppliers and all the factories that they use.  Failure to meet these environmental and social requirements and maintain or lower the price of your products, could result in termination of your Wal-Mart contract.

CAPACCIO recently became involved in helping a Wal-Mart customer, a leading snack food industry manufacturer, prepare for a Wal-Mart audit. Utilizing Walmart’s 15-point sustainability framework, CAPACCIO helped the client prepare for the audit by assessing the company’s current sustainability state against Wal-Mart’s index.

As part of the 15-point framework, Wal-Mart grades companies on four broad categories: energy and climate; material efficiency; nature and resources; and people and community. CAPACCIO found that the company’s current state was already quite “green.” As a family-owned business, the company opted not to promote their environmental and social successes. Wal-Mart, however, was very happy to hear their stories and learn that the snack food company was exploring a number of opportunities to further improve their operations.

CAPACCIO provided the client with an analysis of how they would be scored based on Wal-Mart’s 15-point sustainability framework at the current time. CAPACCIO also provided a number of specific action items that could be considered to help improve the score. Some recommendations were to prepare water and carbon footprint reports and disclose the results to the Carbon Disclosure Project and the newly formed Water Disclosure Project.  CAPACCIO also recommended that the client reach out to its supply chain to learn more about energy and water use in order to complete the disclosures.  We also advised the client to consider creating documentation to present the completed sustainability initiatives and post this information on the company web site or include it in a sustainability report.

CAPACCIO helped this client make an internal business case for these sustainability initiatives.  By going through this process, the business has prospered, and all of the client’s retail customers, not just Wal-Mart, have reaped the benefits.