OSHA Launches Summer Heat Safety Campaign

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s new campaign — “Water. Rest. Shade.” — alerts employers and workers to the hazards of working in high summer temperatures and highlights OSHA’s educational and training resources, including a free app, to help lower the risk of heat-related illnesses in the workplace. To read the full article, written by Joseph Dreesen, click here.

Maximum OSHA Fines for Safety Violations Increase by 78%

The first increases to Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines for violations of safety regulations since 1990 went into effect on August 1, 2016. The increases are substantial: the maximum penalties have increased by 78 percent. In addition, OSHA will adjust the amounts annually based on the Consumer Price Index. To read the full article, written by Nickole Winnett, click here.

Doctor Recommendations Are Medical Treatment According to OSHA

In an April 2016 Interpretation Letter, which was recently made publically available, OSHA responded to a question about medical treatment beyond first aid for recordkeeping purposes. The incident in question involved an employee who experienced wrist pain after working at a computer.  Before being seen at the occupational health clinic, the employee bought and used a rigid wrist brace.  The doctor said that the brace was not necessary but recommended that the employee continue to wear it if it was relieving the pain. The requester wanted to know whether this constituted medical treatment.

In responding, OSHA stated that the recordkeeping criteria is met if the treatment is “directed or recommended by the employer or a health care professional.” In this particular situation, because the doctor recommended the employee continue wearing the brace if it relieved pain, OSHA determined that this constituted medical treatment beyond first aid.  Since OSHA does not generally consider self-treatment or self-medication to amount to medical treatment beyond first aid, had the doctor provided no opinion on the use of the wrist brace the work-related injury would not have been recordable.

Electronic Recordkeeping Rule – OSHA Delays Effective Date for Anti-Retaliation Provision

Yesterday, OSHA announced that it would delay the effective date of one portion of the final rule, “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” also known as the Electronic Recordkeeping rule. Specifically, OSHA has delayed enforcement of Section 1904.35, which requires employers to inform employees of the right to report injuries and illnesses free from retaliation and to establish reasonable procedures for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses.  Employers are already required to have reporting procedures, but the final rule clarified that to be reasonable, such reporting procedures must not discourage employees from reporting injuries or illnesses.

Section 1910.35 became effective August 10, 2016, however,  OSHA has delayed enforcement until November 1, 2016.  According to the agency’s news release the delayed effective date will allow OSHA “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.”

 

OSHA Announces New Maximum Penalty Amounts

Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 OSHA was required to adjust civil penalties for violations of safety and health standards on or before July 1, 2016.  The Bipartisan Budget Act allowed OSHA  a one time “catch-up” to adjust for inflation since 1990. On July 1, 2016, OSHA announced the new maximum civil penalties which will take effect August 1, 2016.    According to OSHA, the new maximum penalty structure for any citations issued after August 1, 2016 will be as follows:

Type of Violation                   Current Maximum Penalty New Maximum Penalty
Serious
Other-Than-Serious
Posting Requirements

 

$7,000 per violation $12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate

 

$7,000 per day beyond the abatement date $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $70,000 per violation $124,709 per violation

On an annual basis the maximum penalties will be adjusted for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index.  Additionally, state plans (those states that operate their own occupational safety and health program) will be required to be raise their maximum penalty amounts to align with Federal OSHA.

New OSHA Whistleblower ‘Shaming’ Program Draws Fire

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a pilot program in the Midwest region to shame employers who allegedly violate their employees’ whistleblower rights egregiously, but a critic contends the initiative may violate a company’s due process rights and unfairly ruin its business reputation. To read the full article, written by Tressi Cordaro, click here.

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