Builders Assocatiation: Details released on OSHA’s new inspection weighing structure

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s traditional practice of counting inspections and assigning each inspection the same degree of importance when measuring enforcement activities, has been changed, The Builders Association has reported in Builders Blueprint. “The new inspection method will rank inspections according to the time and resources needed to conduct evaluations,” the BA newsletter says. “This means that complicated inspections will receive more points than those requiring no assistance from additional OSHA staff.

“OSHA expects the new system will result in increased use of the general duty clause in citations because the weighted system will encourage complicated inspections, which are more likely to lead to citations for serious hazards not covered by specific standards.”

In the memorandum to regional administrators, assistant labor secretary DavidMichaels wrote: “The new system underscores the importance of the resource-intensive enforcement activity that is focused on some of the most hazardous work place issues such as ergonomics, heat, chemical exposures, workplace violence and process safety management.” You can read the full memorandum here.

This new weighting system has been in the works since 2013. Moving forward in fiscal year 2016, inspections will be assigned a number of “enforcement units” (EUs), with a single inspection being credited with at least one inspection unit. The memorandum calls for the following amounts to be credited toward specific types of inspections:

  • 8 EUs: significant case ($100,000-plus fine);
  • 7 EUs: process safety management;
  • 5 EUs: ergonomic hazard;
  • 4 EUs: heat hazard;
  • 3 EUs: fatality or catastrophe;
  • 3 EUs: nonpermissible exposure level exposure hazards;
  • 3 EUs: workplace violence;
  • 2 EUs: combustible dust;
  • 2 EUs: federal agency and
  • 2 EUs: personal exposure sampling.

“Cases that are often handled by telephone, fax or letter (non-formal complaints and rapid response investigations) will be credited with one-ninth of an inspection unit,” the BA reported. “Under this guidance, the inspection of a single employer at a construction site that turned up a few low-penalty violations will earn one inspection unit while the inspection of a fuel refinery covered by process safety management rules will get credit for seven enforcement units.

“In the memorandum, Michaels states that using the number of inspections as the primary metric to measure enforcement activity’ penalized area office directors and other field managers who took on complex inspections. The weighted system should encourage offices to commit resources to lengthy, complex inspections such as those involving chemical or dust sampling, health problems and complex industrial plants.”


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