The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced its Site Specific Targeting Plan for inspecting at least 4,000 non-construction workplaces in 2004. The new plan includes significant changes from last year’s plan, such as revised eligibility criteria and newly created exemptions from certain provisions for some employers.
The Primary Inspection List
The agency has increased the threshold injury/illness rates that will qualify a worksite for inclusion on the Primary Inspection List. Under the 2004 targeting plan, worksites with Days Away, Restricted, or (DART) rates at or above 15.0 or Days Away from Work Injury and Illness (DAFWII) rates at or above 10.0, for every 100 full-time workers, will be added to the Primary Inspection List. Only one of these thresholds needs to be met in order for a worksite to be added to the Primary Inspection List. Based on responses to OSHA’s Data Initiative Survey, the agency announced that about 4,000 workplaces meet these levels.
Failure to Report
Employers who may have believed they could avoid being placed on OSHA’s radar screen by not responding to the 2003 survey will not accomplish that goal. This year’s plan specifically provides that all establishments that failed to respond to the 2003 survey by March 3, 2004, will be included on the Primary Inspection List and will be scheduled for inspection, regardless of their actual DART and DAFWII rates.
Random Low Rate Inspections
In addition to targeting worksites that qualify for the Primary Inspection List due to high illness and injury rates, the agency will also target a random sampling of 200 worksites that reported low injury/illness rates to make sure they are reporting correctly. A notable change for this year’s random sampling plan is that instead of sampling from across all industries as it did in 2003, OSHA will focus on "high-rate" industries in 2004. High-rate industries are those that have DART rates of 8.0 or greater, or DAFWII rates of 4.0 or greater, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For 2004, these industries include the following: meat packing plants; bottled and canned soft drinks; structural wood members, nec; mobile homes; prefabricated wood buildings; public building and related furniture; leather tanning and finishing; steel wire and related products; malleable iron foundries; aluminum die-castings; aluminum foundries; fabricated structural metal; iron and steel forgings; automatic vending machines; motor vehicles and car bodies; ship building and repairing; burial caskets; intercity and rural bus transportation; terminal maintenance facilities; air transportation, scheduled; and nursing and personal care facilities. From this group of industries, the agency will select 200 worksites with DART rates between 0.0 and 4.0 or DAFWII rates between 0.0 and 2.0 to be added to Primary Inspection List.
Records Reviews and Walkthroughs
Another significant difference with the 2004 plan involves "records only" reviews. When an OSHA inspector arrives to inspect an establishment on the Primary Inspection List, the inspector will conduct an initial records review. If the review reveals that establishment had 2002 and 2003 DART rates below 8.0 and DAFWII rates below 4.0, the inspector will classify the inspection as a "records only" inspection. In past years, this ended the inquiry and inspectors would generally close the inspection and exit the facility. This year, however, the plan directs the inspector to conduct a partial walkthrough before exiting the facility. The plan provides that partial walkthroughs must involve interviewing employees "to verify the injury and illness experience." During the walkthrough, "any serious violations that are observed in the vicinity or brought to the attention of the [inspector] must be investigated and may be cited." For this reason, even if an employer is confident that its illness and injury rates would qualify the worksite for a "records only" review, the employer should be prepared for OSHA’s partial walkthrough prior to the close of the inspection.
As with 2003, the 2004 plan provides several ways for a workplace that otherwise would be on the Primary Inspection List and targeted for inspection to be deleted from the inspection list, including workplaces that received a comprehensive safety and health inspection within the last two years, workplaces participating in OSHA Strategic Partnerships and workplaces participating in OSHA’s VPP or SHARP programs or applying for such status. New this year is a provision that prohibits the deletion of any workplace that is moved from the Secondary List to the Primary List under OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Policy (EEP), unless that worksite is a VPP or SHARP site or the worksite is in the process for applying for VPP or in pre-SHARP status.
Another new feature for the 2004 plan is a one-time deferral for employers that request an initial full-service consultation visit through the OSHA’s Consultation Program. If the visit is requested and scheduled by the State Consultation Program, the workplace may receive a one-time deferral from the inspection list for 90 days from the date of notification by the State Consultation Program to the area office. The plan provides that no extension of the deferral beyond the 90 days will be possible, unless the consultation visit is in progress.
Opportunity for Comment
On May 6, 2004, OSHA announced that it is accepting public comments on its 2004 Site Specific Targeting Program. The opportunity for comment runs until July 6, 2004.