OSHA has just announced that its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) is effective June 18th. The SVEP “concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.” Under the program, an inspection of an employer meeting the criteria of an SVEP case may result in enhanced follow-up inspections of the worksite at issue, nationwide inspections of the same employer of related worksites, increased “company awareness” of OSHA’s enforcement actions against the company, and enhanced settlement provisions including possible corporate-wide agreements. In addition, OSHA intends to prominently publicize — in press releases and on its website — those employers that are part of the program.
The following types of cases are considered SVEP cases under the program:
- A fatality/catastrophe inspection in which OSHA finds one or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices based on a serious violation related to a death of an employee or three or more hospitalizations.
- An inspection in which OSHA finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these violations/notices), based on high gravity serious violations related to a “high-emphasis hazard.” A high-emphasis hazard is defined as a high gravity serious violation of specific standards related to fall hazards, amputation hazards, combustible dust hazards, silica hazards, lead hazards, excavation/trenching hazards, shipbreaking hazards, and petroleum refinery hazards.
- An inspection in which OSHA finds three or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these violations/notices), based on high gravity serious violations related to highly hazardous chemicals, as defined in OSHA’s process safety management standard.
- All egregious enforcement actions.
OSHA continues its emphasis on enforcement and the SVEP is another tool that employers should expect OSHA to use aggressively. Employers should take some time now to review their safety and health management systems to ensure that they are fully compliant with OSHA rules and proactively addressing safety and health issues in the workplace.