OSHA Enforcement Trends

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At an American Bar Association meeting in March 2013, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Richard Fairfax discussed recent statistics that continue to reflect OSHA’s enforcement efforts. Fairfax indicated that since the inception of OSHA’s Severe Enhancement Violator Program (SVEP) through January 31, 2013, OSHA has had 309 SVEP cases, averaging about 100 SVEP cases a year. Twenty-three percent of these SVEP cases involved a fatality and more than half were in the construction industry. Out of these SVEP cases, OSHA has reached 81 enhanced settlement agreements, which typically means that OSHA receives a substantial portion of the proposed penalties as well as “enhanced abatements,” such as notification of future work sites, agreements to have third-party audits conducted, or employer notification to the relevant OSHA Area Office of any serious injuries. 

As indicated below, the average penalty per serious violation doubled in fiscal year 2011, but seems to have remained level over the last three fiscal years. However, fiscal year 2013 does not end until September 30, 2013, so the average penalty for this fiscal year could change. Additionally, once the fiscal year ends, it will be interesting to see whether the sequestration ultimately impacted the OSHA inspections and the total number of violations issued in 2013 as compared to 2012.

The top 10 most cited general industry standards changed only slightly from the prior year. Bloodborne pathogens and guarding of floor and wall openings are new to the “top 10” list. 

TOTAL VIOLATIONS ISSUED FY 2009- FY 2013

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AVERAGE CURRENT PENALTY PER SERIOUS VIOLATION

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Tressi L. Cordaro is Of Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Ogletree Deakins.