During a particularly busy September, OSHA issued three new enforcement directives that employers should review:

Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence Incidents.  On September 8, 2011, OSHA issued its first ever directive instructing compliance officers on how to conduct inspections that occur as a result of workplace violence incidents.  The directive "clarifies and expands" OSHA policies in the area of workplace violence.  While OSHA has no specific standard addressing workplace violence, the Agency has stated that workplace violence is a recognized hazard and that it will utilize the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to cite employers who do not take reasonable and appropriate steps to protect employees against workplace violence hazards.

Site-Specific Targeting 2011.  On September 9, 2011, OSHA issued its Site-Specific Targeting program (SST) for the coming year.  The SST is OSHA’s "main programmed inspection plan for non-construction workplaces that have 20 or more employees."  Establishments are placed on OSHA’s SST inspection list based upon information submitted to the Agency through its 2010 Data Initiative.  

Whistleblower Investigations Manual.  On September 20, 2011, OSHA published its revised Whistleblower Investigations Manual, superseding the 2003 version.  The Manual provides step-by-step instructions to OSHA investigators on how to conduct investigations under the numerous whistleblower statutes that OSHA enforces.  The revised Manual is part of a larger effort announced recently by OSHA to revamp its whistleblower protection program.

OSHA enforcement directives provide useful information regarding the conduct of inspections and, in some cases, underlying compliance obligations.  Employers are encouraged to take note of these new directives and make any needed adjustments to their safety and health policies as a result of their review.