OSHA Continues to Increase Enforcement Activities

Stephanie Salmon

If OSHA’s activities in 2022 are any indication, metalcasters should expect to see a continued increase in enforcement activities. More significant enforcement citations are on the rise again, with over seven foundries receiving initial penalties of over $100,000 so far this year, and the agency is on pace to conduct more inspections than in 2021. 

OSHA has also seen a significant increase to its budget, especially in enforcement. According to OSHA Administrator Doug Parker, during a speech in September at the National Safety Council’s 2022 Safety Congress & Expo, the agency has “hired more than 400 employees recently.” Over the past year, OSHA officials have underscored plans to ramp up inspections. OSHA inspections across all industries have steadily declined since 2011. In 2021, OSHA had 40% fewer inspections than a decade earlier based on publicly available information. This is expected to impact OSHA’s inspection and citation efforts only further.

Metalcasters, Pay Attention

OSHA is increasingly turning its focus to other occupational health and safety issues. With the substantial shift in activity and priorities, it is important that metalcasters and their suppliers are paying attention and are prepared to handle an OSHA inspection.

OSHA has also increased focus on its National Emphasis Programs, which target high-hazard industries, including foundries. The NEPs include crystalline silica, primary metal, hazardous machinery, heat-related hazards, combustible dust, hexavalent chromium, lead, and, of course, COVID-19. In addition, several Regional Emphasis Programs exist, including heat illness, noise, powered industrial trucks, and fall hazards—all areas that impact foundries.

OSHA’s regulatory agenda and messaging from agency officials have focused on the following:

  • Increased enforcement concerning heat safety (rulemaking in progress)
  •  Renewed emphasis on machine guarding, lockout/tagout, and confined spaces.
  • Accurately maintaining injury and illness records—OSHA is in the process of updating its current e-recordkeeping rule to increase access to more data with a final rule expected in December 2022. Under the proposed changes, facilities with 100 or more employees in high-hazard industries, including metalcasters, will be required to submit data from 300 logs, 301 reports, and 300A summaries annually, not just the 300A.
  • Addressing hazardous chemical exposures in the workplace.
  • Increased whistleblower protection enforcement.
  • Appropriate safety training for employees, regardless of language spoken.

OSHA Revises Severe Violator Enforcement Program Criteria

OSHA announced on September 15 that it is expanding the criteria for placement in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). In place since 2010, the program focuses agency enforcement and inspection resources on employers that demonstrate indifference to their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations. Along with being placed on a public list of the nation’s severe violators, employers are subject to follow-up inspections.

The new criteria include violations of all hazards and OSHA standards and will continue to focus on repeat offenders in all industries. Previously, an employer could be in the program for failing to meet a limited number of standards. A referral under the SVEP can lead to substantial costs and OSHA inspections, so it is important to remain vigilant in carefully reviewing and responding to OSHA citations.

Among the updated criteria:

  • Program placement for employers with citations for at least two willful or repeated violations or that receive failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of serious violations.
  • Follow-up or referral inspections made one year—but not longer than two years—after the final order.
  • Potential removal from the program three years after the date of receiving verification that the employer has abated all program-related hazards. In the past, removal could occur three years after the final order date.
  • Employers’ ability to reduce time spent in the program to two years, if they consent to an enhanced settlement agreement that includes use of a safety and health management system with seven basic elements in OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.

The updated program instruction is in effect until OSHA cancels or modifies the program. Given the high stakes of the revised SVEP, and its focus on repeat violations, it’s a good time for metalcasters to review their workplace’s safety and health program, as well as prepare the workplace and your employees for an OSHA inspection. Be sure to participate in regularly scheduled AFS safety webinars and the AFS Safety Committee, which meets quarterly to discuss relevant safety issues and share information.