The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

When it comes to the federal worker safety agencies, Mark Twain was right!  The initial federal budgets that were proposed brought much consternation from unions about worker safety, hand-wringing from the media and activist groups, and speculation that entire agencies like the Chemical Safety Board (and even OSHA itself) may be gone entirely.  Although CTI, among others, warned clients about becoming complacent from reports that they would “see no interference from government agencies under the current administration”, it seemed like delaying intended safety improvements and training was starting to become more prevalent. Well, the FY 2018 budget which was recently passed by Congress maintains funding at unchanged (2017) levels for OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Chemical Safety Board (CSB). Even OSHA’s Susan Harwood training grants were re-approved for 2018 although, in its budget justification, OSHA noted that it “has no evidence that the [Susan Harwood] program is effective .”  For that reason, this Training Grant program, which received around $10.5 million in both 2017 and 2018, has been eliminated from the 2019 OSHA budget. The program, established in 1978, provided 1- to 5-year competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to develop and conduct occupational safety and health training programs.

What is even more significant about the 2019 OSHA budget is that OSHA has requested $212.7 million in funding for enforcement in fiscal year (FY) 2019, representing an increase of $6.1 million, or just under 3 percent, over the FY 2018 levels. However, the total requested budget for FY 2019 is identical to the 2018 level, meaning that the agency shifted requested money away from other areas to fund the increase in enforcement dollars. This increase in enforcement funding will allow OSHA to hire an additional 42 staff members. In addition, the agency plans to conduct 30,840 inspections in 2018, concentrating on “the highest-impact and most complex inspections at the highest-risk workplaces.” In 2019, OSHA will launch a new weighting system to measure and prioritize its enforcement and other essential activities.

So, don’t be too quick to “back-burner” those training and safety improvement programs because OSHA seems quite alive and well! CTI will help you budget your OSHA priorities.  Even if you are not among the most dangerous professions which are targeted for enforcement by OSHA, even if you have not had an unusually high number of reportable incidents for your industry, and even if you feel fairly confident that no one will likely report you for unsafe working conditions (any of which will bring the OSHA inspector to your doorstep unannounced), it takes only one unfortunate incident like the following company in Mason, Ohio experienced to cause your business an unnecessary crisis:

Kraft Heinz Foods Cited at Ohio Facility

An employee of Kraft Heinz Foods Co., suffered a partial finger amputation while clearing a jammed machine. The Mason, Ohio, company was cited for failing to: implement energy control procedures to prevent equipment from starting unintentionally; install machine guards and energy isolation devices; and train workers on the use of energy control procedures. OSHA proposed penalties of $109,939. Read the news release for more information.

Published by Stephen Kovatch

Senior Client Manager  Stephen J. Kovatch focuses on assisting clients in establishing corporate regulatory compliance programs in the areas of air, water, and waste management. Mr. Kovatch also provides direction to industrial facility owners who are active in the transaction of contaminated property by defining objectives, coordinating soil and water sampling protocols, risk assessment, and remedial / cleanup activities. He frequently represents clients in property sales negotiations and regulatory agency and insurance proceedings.

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