OSHA unveils new safety strategy

New OSHA guidelines promote closer safety inspections.

New OSHA guidelines promote closer safety inspections.

The beginning of October saw the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration unveil a new inspection strategy. As a result, The National Law Review said the number of inspections at oil refineries and chemical plants will likely increase and other high-risk work sites. The new strategy will also incorporate inspections centering around ergonomics and workplace violence.

During the National Safety Council conference, held in the middle of September in Atlanta, OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels explained the reasoning behind the new inspections, saying resources will be better used on more meaningful matters.

“All inspections aren’t equal – some are more complex and require more time and resources – and many of those inspections have the greatest impact,” Michaels said during the conference, according to The NLR.

According to an official OSHA blog post from Dr. Michaels, the changes come after OSHA conducted 36,163 federal inspections and another 42,217 completed by state plans during fiscal year 2014. As a result, the new protocol will enable OSHA to give extra time to more complex and demanding inspections.

New measurement
As part of the new inspection strategy, OSHA is introducing the new Enforcement Weighting System and Enforcement Unit. Dr. Michaels explained that under the the new system, a routine inspection will count for one Enforcement Unit. The more complex inspections, the more Enforcement Units they will count for, with a maximum of eight. For example, a process safety management inspection may be valued at seven units. According to Dr. Michaels, the values were created based on historical data and will be adjusted if need be.

“Employers are able to spend more time and conduct thorough inspections.”

With the new system, enforcement personnel will be able to conduct those complicated inspections without fear of falling short of goals for individual inspections. Inspectors will likely be glad to know that telephone inquiries in relation to severe injury reports will also count as inspection units. Furthermore, the new strategy will not implement any type of quota, and Dr. Michaels stressed this point in his blog post.

The strategy had been approximately two years in the making. The initial pilot program was run in conjunction with the traditional inspecting counting program.

“I have long believed that we should not merely focus on the number of inspections that we conduct but also take into account their impact on improving health and safety,” said Dr. Michaels.

Impact on worksite and employers
As a result of the new inspection system, employers are able to spend more time and conduct thorough inspections to ensure nothing is overlooked. For dangerous work sites, the extra time can help prevent disaster and employee harm. The benefits outweigh the risks, even if inspections will require more time. Companies will be able to discover important details for potential work-related accidents. That information will go a long way toward preventing future accidents. The tiered system, even though it requires more time for complex inspections, will not take away from ones that can be conducted in a shorter time.

As always, companies should will want to follow OSHA guidelines created for their specific industry.