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OSHA responds to questions on enforcement, compliance assistance

January 3, 2013

Safety+Health’s December 2012 issue included an article listing OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited standards for the year and featuring an exclusive Q&A with Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs. We had additional questions for the agency on enforcement and compliance assistance but didn’t get a chance to run the responses in the December issue.

Here they are now:

S+H: This past summer, OSHA implemented its second annual campaign to prevent heat illnesses. How successful has this campaign been?

OSHA: The second annual heat illness prevention campaign was greatly successful. We concentrated on reaching more employers and workers with our simple message, “Water. Rest. Shade.”

The goal of the campaign was to prevent heat-related illnesses and fatalities. While we cannot ascertain the number of illnesses and fatalities prevented as a result of the campaign, we do know we reached thousands of workers across the United States. OSHA national, regional and area office staff conducted more than 1,000 outreach events, distributed half a million heat hazard materials in English and Spanish, and again partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue heat alerts to workers and employers across the country. In addition, this year, OSHA worked with industry partners to post information on billboards in several regions and key states. OSHA also actively promoted the agency’s first smartphone app, which attracted more than 55,000 downloads since its release in August 2011. OSHA posted a heat fatality map on its website that geographically displays worker fatalities investigated by OSHA between 2009 and 2012.

OSHA is seeking feedback on the campaign’s success through a customer satisfaction survey on the Heat Illness Prevention Campaign website. The survey is a chance for respondents to provide OSHA their thoughts on OSHA’s heat illness materials, suggested improvements, training, and favored elements of the campaign. The survey does not collect personal information from visitors – only their opinions and evaluations of the OSHA program. We are continually reviewing incoming responses and look forward to using the feedback for this and future projects.

S+H: Are there other compliance assistance initiatives or OSHA programs you believe are particularly helpful for employers in preventing injuries and illnesses?

OSHA: OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management programs. Each year, responding to requests from small employers looking to create or improve their safety and health management programs, the On-site Consultation Program conducts more than 29,000 visits to small business worksites covering more than 1.5 million workers across the nation. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. For more information, visit the OSHA website.

OSHA has compliance assistance specialists throughout the nation located in most OSHA offices. Compliance assistance specialists can provide information to employers and workers about OSHA standards, short educational programs on specific hazards or OSHA rights and responsibilities and information on additional compliance assistance resources. For more details, visit OSHA’s Compliance Assistance Page or call (800) 321-OSHA [6742] to contact your local OSHA office.

In addition to these efforts, in April, OSHA launched a full-scale awareness campaign with our government, industry, union, university and community organization partners to educate construction employers and workers to prevent injuries and death from falls. This major awareness campaign focuses on three hazards – falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds – that account for nearly three-quarters of all worker deaths from falls in construction in 2010. The campaign has published educational materials in four different languages that are easy to understand and accessible to all workers. The campaign’s message is injuries and fatalities from falls are preventable when employers make the effort to follow three simple steps: Plan, Provide and Train.

To date, more than 170,000 of our published materials have been distributed throughout the country. We also launched a new website and in just the first few months of the campaign, there have been more than a quarter of a million visits to these materials online.

S+H: Full enforcement of the directive requiring residential construction employers to comply with 1926.501(b)(13) has been delayed several times – a three-month initial phase-in period was followed by an enforcement policy with reduced penalties that has gone on for more than a year. What has prompted such an extended delay, and is OSHA seeing increased compliance with the requirements among residential construction employers?

OSHA: The temporary enforcement policy with reduced penalties was developed to help the residential construction industry transition from using the alternative measures found in the interim directive to the requirements in Subpart M – Fall Protection. OSHA continues to work with the industry to implement these changes to transition to the new policy. Today, OSHA extended the enforcement policies of reduced penalties, priority for compliance assistance, and extended abated dates until March 15, 2013.

OSHA has identified very little non-compliance with the new practices, and continues to work closely with the residential construction industry to implement the new directive. From Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Projects performed more than 3,000 onsite visits, conducted close to 1,100 training sessions and delivered close to 500 presentations related to fall protection in residential construction. OSHA’s regional and area offices also conducted more than 1,200 outreach activities on the directive.

OSHA will continue working with employers to facilitate compliance with the policy. Our compliance safety and health officers and area directors continue to demonstrate to the industry that OSHA is taking a commonsense approach when enforcing the requirements.

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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