OSHA Releases Guidance on Enhanced “Instance-by-Instance Citations”
On January 26, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued what they stated was: “…new enforcement guidance to make its penalties more effective in stopping employers from repeatedly exposing workers to life-threatening hazards or failing to comply with certain workplace safety and health requirements.”
What does this mean?
It means that OSHA is now targeting employers whose employees are repeatedly put at risk of serious injury or death because of repeated disregard for the regulations and the well-being of their employees.
Why is OSHA doing this?
Unfortunately, OSHA believes that some employers show a lack of commitment to the safety and well-being of their employees. Current fines and penalties are sometimes seen as a cost of doing business and have not had the desired effect of ensuring regulatory compliance and making the workplace safer. OSHA hopes that this new directive will act as a deterrent to those prioritizing profit over the safety and well-being of their employees.
What is changing?
In certain circumstances where the rule allows for a citation for each instance of non-compliance, OSHA regional administrators and area office directors now have the authority to issue “instance-by-instance citations” (IBI citations). The ability to enforce IBI citations has been around since 1990, but this new enforcement guide is meant to expand their application. Standards covered by this action are specific to: “…falls, trenching, machine guarding, respiratory protection, permit-required confined spaces, lockout tagout, and other-than-serious violations of OSHA standards specific to recordkeeping.”
In the past, some citations, where allowed, were grouped together, and the penalty for violation was based on the most serious violation. This directive now reminds OSHA regional and area offices that, in some situations, they can cite individual violations of a standard separately rather than as a group. As an example: a group of machines lack machine guarding. In the past these machines may have been grouped together with fines and penalties determined based on the machine with the most serious violation(s). Now regional administrators and area directors have the discretion to cite each machine individually for each violation found or by each affected employee as examples. This increases the number of violations that can be cited and also significantly increases the number of fines and penalties.
What can you do?
All the information on the OSHA regulatory standards, how to comply, and penalties for noncompliance are posted on the OSHA website. Just as your business needs to follow quality and production standards to remain profitable, so must you also follow the OSHA standards.
Companies that put safety first will inevitably be more attractive places to work for skilled employees and will realize positive impacts on the general morale of the workforce throughout their operation.
The best way of avoiding OSHA citations is to comply with the various standards located at https://www.osha.gov/.
The way OSHA conducts inspections and determines citations is in the Field Operations Manual (FOM) located at https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-00-164#20230123_ch17.
OSHA Compliance Directives (CPLs) outline how to conduct specific inspections and are located at https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/directivenumber/CPL. The specific directive for this guidance on instance-by-instance citations is CPL 02-00-080.
Need help? Experiencing information overload? Don’t have the expertise to interpret and deal with the OSHA regulations? Contact Walden Environmental Engineering. Our EHS Division is ready and willing to help you comply with the various regulations pertaining to your business, making it safer and healthier for you and your employees. Give us a call today at 516-271-1948.