In fiscal year 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) conducted 33,401 more inspections than in the previous three years, which includes a notable increase in chemical exposure cases.
While inspections are increasing significantly, in 2019 OSHA reduced certain electronic reporting requirements which had been implemented by the Obama administration in 2016. With OSHA’s March 2, 2020 deadline for employers to electronically file their annual summary of all work related injuries and illnesses, the electronic reporting requirements for certain employers have been reduced.
For example, employers with 250 or more employees at a particular establishment are no longer required to electronically submit their OSHA 300 and OSHA 301 Forms directly to OSHA. These employers, however, still need to electronically file their annual OSHA 300A Form before March 2, 2020. Employers with between 20 and 249 employees also must electronically file their OSHA 300A Form (by March 2, 2020), if they fall into one of the industries designated by OSHA’s regulations. Additionally, all employers must continue to report to OSHA any work place incident, such as a chemical exposure resulting in worker injury.
On January 10, 2020, OSHA (Region 5) proposed a $171,628 penalty to an industrial valve manufacturing company for exposing employees to lead and copper dust at rates higher than the permissible exposure levels.
On February 4, 2020, OSHA (Region 3) proposed a $280,874 penalty against a hydraulic service and repair company for exposing workers to hexavalent chromium fumes and other hazards at the company’s facility in Pennsylvania. The penalties included one willful violation and 18 serious and two other-than-serious citations. OSHA noted in their report that “employers must continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and use proper safety controls and equipment to protect workers’ safety.”
An important takeaway from this post is that with the increase in OSHA inspections and imposition of significant fines, employers should, almost daily or weekly, evaluate their facilities for chemical exposure hazards. Also, this will ensure the use of proper safety controls and other equipment to protect workers’ safety.