Avoid Harsh OSHA Fines

Over the last year or so, OSHA has been under scrutiny from the Department of Labor for not taking enough measures with to enforce current standards and rules, especially toward companies that demonstrate an indifference to meeting compliance. As a result OSHA has implemented several enforcement initiatives that are greatly impacting vast numbers of printers today.

One of the initiatives involves National Emphasis Programs (NEP). These are inspection programs designed to target specific industries and hazards. Applicable to the printing industry are the Amputation NEP, Combustible Dust NEP, and the Injury and Illness RecordkeepingNEP.Under each of these NEPs printing operations and printing equipment have been specifically identified and require OSHA to seek printers in their area for inspections.  

Once an inspection occurs, OSHA will attempt to determine whether or not there are violations and whether or not a company is considered a “severe violator,” which is another enforcement initiative. OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) is applied when a company demonstrates an “indifference” to meeting OSHA compliance. Under the SVEP program, OSHA can issue willful, repeat, and/or failure-to-abate citations with much higher penalties and enhanced settlement requirements. 

The issue of higher penalties brings us to the more recent policy change regarding OSHA’s penalty classification. Because of the many violations noted by OSHA inspectors, OSHA believes the penalties are too low to have an adequate deterrent effect. Based on inspection data, OSHA has increased the number of years it will look back for previous violations, which will increase the number of potential repeat violations. OSHA has also limited the initial penalty reduction allowance from 50% to 30% which has increased the average penalty for serious citations to a base of $3,000–$4,000 for each citation.

First and foremost, with all OSHA inspections, being prepared ahead of time is the key to avoiding citations and penalties. Second, cooperation with the inspector is important, but be careful of what information is provided when asked. Always record what occurs during the inspection process and ask the inspector to clarify or explain the actual OSHA standard for any issues raised. OSHA inspections will usually take multiple days with multiple inspectors to cover the applicable programs. Being proactive is the best defense. If you need help in this area, please contact us by clicking here.  There is also a free publication available to members, OSHA Primer, which will provide a basic overview of the federal OSHA regulations affecting printers. This publication, as well as other compliance tools, is available at www.printing.org/osha.


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