What you need to know about the new rules and regulations
Come August, there will be a new batch of OSHA rules and regulations going into effect. How will you know which ones impact you and how to decipher the new guidelines? Here, we’ve summarized the key updates to note, and what to pay attention to in the coming weeks.
Fines Increase Nearly 80%
On November 2, 2015, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which required all federal agencies, including OSHA, to adjust their penalty rates according to current inflation. For OSHA (who hasn’t increased their fine rates since 1990), this means a 78 percent rate increase, which will go into affect August 1, 2016.
The current maximum penalties for violations range from $7,000 to $70,000. The new maximum penalties will range from $12,471 to $124,709. Going forward, OSHA will adjust their penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.
Even if your violation occurred before August 1, any citations issued after August 1 will still be subject to the new penalties. In fact, this will apply to violations occurring back to November 2, 2015. Now is the best time to make sure all of your safety solutions are OSHA compliant so you can avoid these heftier fines.
New Injury Reporting Rule
OSHA is changing the way businesses need to report their workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses. Beginning August 10, certain employers must annually submit all recordable incidents through OSHA’s website. The agency says the new system will encourage employers to increase workplace safety efforts.
Depending on your business’s size, here’s what you need to know:
- 250 or more employees: You are required to electronically submit OSHA forms 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), 301 (Injury and Incident Report) and 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).
- 20 – 249 employees: If your business operates in what OSHA claims to be a “high-risk” industry (e.g. manufacturing, construction, utilities, warehousing or transportation), you are only required to electronically submit OSHA Form 300A.
- OSHA will not require businesses with fewer than 20 employees to submit these new forms. However, OSHA can still mandate that an individual business submit their records should the agency deem it necessary.
The first deadline for electronic submission is July 1, 2017. The data will then be made available for public viewing online (after all personal information has been removed).
What can you do to prepare? Be sure you have an updated and organized incident recording/reporting procedure in place before August 10.
Common Safety Programs Outlawed
Come November 1st, OSHA will outlaw two common workplace safety policies. First, employers will no longer be able to automatically drug-test all employees involved in workplace safety incidents. Instead, testing policies should be limited to situations where drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident.
For example, testing an employee for drugs or alcohol after a report of a repetitive strain injury, machine malfunction or bee sting would most likely be unreasonable and could be subject to a hefty fine.
The second change: Employers will no longer be able to offer rewards to employees that avoid or reduce workplace accidents. Incentive programs should encourage safety in the workplace without discouraging workers from reporting incidents. For instance, awarding bonuses to employees with a zero-accident record would violate this new OSHA guideline. Rather, businesses should restructure their incentive programs to reward workers for completing safety trainings, compliance certifications or safety inspections.
OSHA is taking a stand against any workplace safety practice that might discourage workers from reporting accidents, injuries or illnesses. In the coming months, make sure that your business’s safety training, workplace policies and incentive programs are all updated to reflect these new rules.
New Slips, Trips and Fall Prevention Rule
For years, OSHA has strictly enforced their “slips, trips and fall prevention” rule. After all, Fall Protection (1926.501) was the most frequently cited rule for 2015. However, the rule hasn’t been updated since 1990 — meaning it overlooks today’s technological safety advancements and updated industry best practices.
In order to better protect employees, OSHA has submitted their new “Walking and Working Surfaces; Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems)” rule for executive approval. Once approved, the agency believes this new rule can prevent 20 workplace fatalities and over 3,700 workplace injuries per year.
Here’s what you need to know regarding this new and improved OSHA rule:
- The new rule will eliminate duplication of specifications and unnecessary language, making requirements more easily understood.
- OSHA will be reducing its emphasis on specification-based equipment and increase the importance of performance-based criteria for fall protection safety solutions.
- Criteria and clear standards for fall protection equipment will be included. This will help ensure that general industry standards for fall protection equipment are consistent with existing maritime and construction standards, as well as current industry practice.
- Increased compliance flexibility for employers will be included in the new rule. Of course, fall protection solutions will be required, but compliant options are available, such as travel restraint systems, lifeline cable systems and trolley beam systems. OSHA believes this flexibility will help workers avoid slip, trip and fall hazards by allowing employers to select the best solution for their worksite.
- Details will be provided to employers regarding the proper use of personal fall protection systems. This information will reflect advancements in safety solution technology.
An Informed Vendor Can Help
Of course, this won’t be the last time OSHA updates their rules and regulations. By maintaining a relationship with a reputable safety solution vendor, however, you can be sure that your workplace remains compliant through any changes OSHA may enact.
At ErectaStep, our safety solutions are creative, innovative and, of course, OSHA compliant. When your vendor makes federal safety updates a top priority, you can be sure that your customized solutions not only meet your unique needs, but also keep your workplace safe.
To read more about these most recent regulation updates, you can also visit osha.gov.