OSHA Expands Severe Violator Enforcement Program

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The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues its efforts to scrutinize employers considered to have ignored or minimized safety issues discovered during prior inspections. OSHA previously created a Severe Violator Inspection Program (SVIP) intended to apply additional regulatory oversight over these companies. This program imposes mandatory follow-up inspections on those employees considered to have demonstrated indifference to prior regulatory efforts. OSHA levies enhanced fines when additional safety issues are discovered and establishes settlement requirements that apply stringent compliance measures.

Last week, OSHA announced that it further enhanced SVIP to strengthen enforcement efforts. Among other steps, companies will be placed under SVIP if they have two willful or repeat violations or those that receive a failure to abate notices for high gravity violations. Those employers will face additional inspections of all safety practices, not just those for the operations that led to prior citations. OSHA also changed the criteria for removing companies from SVIP by creating incentives for adopting enhanced safety procedures.

When combined with the increasing amount of penalties levied by OSHA, these changes are intended to force companies viewed by OSHA as recalcitrant to focus attention on worker safety. Employers placed into SVIP will certainly have large financial and regulatory incentives to exit the program as soon as possible.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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