Employer Alert: OSHA Announces Their 2006 Site-Specific Inspection Plan

Do you know if OSHA has targeted your business for an inspection? If not, you may find the answer in OSHA’s 2006 Site-Specific Targeting plan (SST)1. The SST lays out what categories of companies OSHA considers high priority targets for safety and health inspections this year. It amounts to a veritable “Most Wanted” list for OSHA Compliance Officers. the following analysis should help businesses assess the likelihood of an SST inspection at their establishment. It is important to note that the SST program is not the exclusive method OSHA utilizes to select employers for an inspection2. Rather, OSHA uses this methodology to determine one category of high priority targeted inspections.

The chance of a SST OSHA inspection for most businesses will depend on the frequency with which their employees miss work, suffer work restrictions, or receive transfer assignments due to work injuries or illness. The source of this information comes primarily from OSHA’s survey of employer’s incidents of injury and illness for 2004. Employers are required by law to complete the survey. OSHA may also target particular industries that have a historically high injury rate, suspected underreporting employers, companies with other OSHA reported incidents, and those that failed to respond to the survey.

OSHA utilizes two formulas to calculate injury rates: DART and DAFWII. The DART rate is the number of reported days away from work, restricted activity, and/or job transfer due to injury/illness divided by the total number of hours for all workers during the year (200,000 hours is the baseline for 100 full-time employees). The DAFWII rate is the number of cases involving days away from work divided by total work hours with the same base rate. As discussed below, an employer’s chance of an inspection will increase if either rate falls within a specified range.

Are you subject to a SST Inspection?

Companies that fall into one of the following categories will be placed on the Primary Inspection List and will be subject to a priority inspection in 2006:

1. Establishments with a DART rate at 12.0 or higher or a DAFWII rate at 9.0 or higher. OSHA estimates this will include approximately 4,250 worksites. Nationally, the DART rate is 2.6 injuries per 100 workers, and the DAFWII rate is 1.5, although many high-rate industries have DART indexes for their particular industry.

2. Nursing or Personal Care facilities (SIC Code 805). This category includes establishments that provide inpatient nursing and rehabilitative services, convalescent homes, extended care facilities, mental hospitals, and nursing homes. The primary focus of the inspections in this category will be injuries associated with moving patients, blood safety, exposure to infectious materials, exposure to tuberculosis, and slip and falls. Inspections will also encompass other issues discovered during the course of the inspection. OSHA considers the healthcare industry to be a high priority safety objective based on historically high injury data.

3. Low-rate establishments (DART rate of 0 to 2.5) in a high-rate industry (DART index AT 6.7 TO 10.6). This category is limited to companies with at least 75 employees. OSHA has identified these high-rate industries in its program materials. The thrust behind this category of employers is to identify those employers who underreport injuries.

4. Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) establishments. An employer is identified as an EEP candidate if, during an inspection triggered by a fatality, OSHA finds at least one high-gravity serious, willful, or repeat violation related to the death. Inspections that find three or more high-gravity serious violations classified as willful or repeat, or that result in two or more failure-to-abate notices for high-gravity serious violations can also trigger EEP action. Under this enhanced enforcement program, when OSHA sees a lax corporate-wide approach to employee safety and health, it may seek to inspect other plants or workplaces of the same employer as a high priority.3

5. 2005 Data Initiative Non-Responders. OSHA will also inspect a random sampling of establishments that did not respond to the 2005 Data Initiative.

If an Area Office completes the inspection of the sites on the Primary Inspection List before the program’s expiration, it may inspect establishments that are on the Secondary Inspection List. The Secondary Inspection List includes those worksites that have a DART rate between 7.0 and 11.9 or a DAFWII rate between 5.0 and 8.9. If an Area Office completes the Secondary Inspection List, it may inspect additional sites, randomly selecting establishments from those with DART rates of at least 5.1 and a DAFWII rate of 2.9.

Can you avoid or postpone a SST Inspection?

If you have recently undergone an OSHA inspection, participate in any of the OSHA programs identified above, or have recently acquired an establishment that may be subject to a SST Inspection, the answer may be yes. Eligibility for these deferrals and exemptions is very technical and depends on varying circumstances. An employer who believes it falls into one of these categories should contact legal counsel to determine whether they can avoid or postpone a SST inspection.

In addition, many companies make themselves targets unnecessarily because they over report the number of injuries to OSHA on their 300 log by reporting all injuries, no matter how insignificant, and then directly transposing the information onto the survey form. This exaggerates the actual incident rates. Careful monitoring of your 300 log-reporting procedures and periodic evaluations of your DART/DAFWII rate may help to prevent this from happening.

What to expect at a SST Inspection?

The SST Inspection Program calls for a comprehensive investigation of safety issues. Inspections will also include a scrutiny of potential health hazards discovered during an inspection and issues based on prior experience or knowledge of a particular establishment or industry. These inspections will be conducted by local OSHA offices and will be unannounced. OSHA will continue to conduct other inspections arising from complaints and fatalities and carry out other national or regional programs.

Find out today if your company has an excessive DART or DAFWII index, and if so, prepare as if you will be inspected soon. If you determine your problems now, you will save considerable time and money if OSHA does arrive at your facility.

An OSHA inspector’s appearance at your place of business is not a pleasant experience, but you can avoid a great deal of the anxiety by knowing what to expect and preparing accordingly.4 Maintaining the proper logbooks and records, having information readily available, keeping your managers and employees properly informed of how to respond to any questions are all-important measures to avoid citations and penalties. It is imperative that a business consult with their attorneys to properly prepare for a potential OSHA inspection and develop a plan that thoroughly considers the nature of its operations to comply with OSHA’s standards and avoid any unnecessary fines and expenses.

For more information about whether your workplace is prepared for an OSHA inspection, or if OSHA is currently investigating your establishment, you may contact Steve Grubbs, at the law firm of Sheehy, Serpe & Ware, P.C., for more information at (713) 951-1014. Mr. Grubbs is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Labor and Employment Law, and has defended employers from OSHA inspections, investigations and litigation for more than 10 years.

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1 You may review the entire Directive at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL2_06-01.pdf

2 Other triggering events include workplace fatalities, multiple injury events, employee complaints, drive by inspections, and pure random inspections, to name a few.

3 For more information on the EEP program, go to:

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=24649

4 For guidance on what to do once you are notified of an OSHA inspection, see http://www.sheehyware.com/en/art/?6

Author: Steve Grubbs
Phone: (713) 951-1014
Fax: (713) 289-2014