In its 2015 budget, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has expressed a desire to begin targeted inspections of more small businesses. OSHA is currently limited in its ability to conduct inspections on businesses with 10 or fewer employees. OSHA generally only conducts inspections of these companies in industries that have higher-than-average injury and illness rates. Now, OSHA wants to also inspect companies that have the potential for catastrophic incidents.
If OSHA is able to expand its inspection authority to more companies, this could help to reduce catastrophic events that cause injury not just to workers but potentially within whole communities. Ultimately, though, with a limited number of inspectors, OSHA can only do so much. Employers of all sizes need to exercise caution when dealing with hazardous materials or high-risk conditions and have an obligation to ensure that they aren’t putting others at risk. An injured worker who is harmed on-the-job should consult with a workplace injury lawyer for help understanding his legal right to compensation.
Increasing OSHA Authority Could Reduce the Risk of Deadly Accidents
According to Safety BLR, OSHA has asked Congress to amend appropriations language to allow broader authority because the agency believes that “Neither the number of workers in a business, nor the level of injury and illness rates, are predictive of the potential for high-consequence catastrophic incidents, resulting in multiple casualties and extensive property damage.”
For smaller companies with below-average injury and illness rates, OSHA’s only involvement under current rules is to provide education and consultation; to conduct studies; to act on imminent threats or risks; to respond to employee complaints; to respond if multiple employees are hospitalized or if an employee is killed; and to respond if allegations are made by whistleblowers that the employer is engaging in retaliatory behavior based on reported wrongdoing.
OSHA wants a narrow expansion to its authority that would apply to small facilities covered by either its Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations or by the Chemical Accident Prevention Program managed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Companies whose businesses are farming, harvesting or processing would not be subject to the new inspection authority.
The requested change is driven in part by the disaster last year at a West Texas Fertilizer plant. The fertilizer plant exploded in April of 2013, killing 14 people, injuring hundreds of others and destroying nearby homes and buildings. There were just nine workers at the facility and OSHA had not inspected the plant since 1985 when it cited the plant for improperly storing anhydrous ammonia and fined it $30. Many places like the West Texas plant exist and have very small staffs but because they work with dangerous products, improper safety procedures could cause widespread injury and death.
OSHA is seeking $565 million in funding for 2015, which is a 2.3 percent increase from 2014. A total of 37 percent of this money would be dedicated to federal inspections, which would make it possible for the agency to conduct a total of 38,250 different inspections at the federal level. OSHA conducts relatively few inspections already, and adding small businesses to the mix means that OSHA is going to be stretched even thinner in terms of being able to regularly inspect all companies that could present a public risk.
Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.
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