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2023 Health and Safety Lookahead

Posted: January 11th, 2023

Author: All4 Staff 

In our 2022 Health and Safety Look Ahead, we assessed the impact of Doug Parker’s confirmation as the new Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) head, his priorities and alignment with the Biden administration’s “enhanced enforcement efforts” and the vast impacts it could have on businesses small and large. As we look back at 2022, Mr. Parker has initiated some of these priorities and we will see the impact from that play out more predominantly in 2023.

One such example is the revisions to the Federal OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Similar to his efforts as the former head of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), Mr. Parker is focused on more aggressive enforcement. The revisions to the SVEP bolster Parker’s vision and OSHA in doing just that. They are significant and could have long lasting ramifications for businesses, both legally and financially. Historically, facilities were entered into the SVEP when safety incidents included fatalities, multiple person hospitalizations, high-emphasis hazards, enforcement actions considered egregious, and the potential release of highly hazardous chemicals. The program now encompasses employers who demonstrate “indifference to their OSHA obligations by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.” Being entered into the SVEP now means you are placed on a public list of the country’s severe safety violators, you are subject to routine annual OSHA inspections, and removal from the program may only occur three years after OSHA has verified the facility is back in compliance or a reduced two-year term by developing and implementing a safety and health management system (SHMS). “These changes to the SVEP will hold a microscope to those employers who continue to expose workers to very serious dangers and help ensure America’s workers come home safe at the end of every shift,” says Parker. Companies working on improving their safety programs need to take this policy shift seriously to better understand their vulnerabilities, both short and long term.

Second, in 2022 we saw an uptick in heat stress enforcement, revisions to various State OSHA heat stress standards, and more focus on the development of a federal heat stress standard. Notably, researchers with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) studying heat stress found that of the nearly 500 fatal or catastrophic heat-related incidents in California between 2005 and 2019, many of the citations issued by Cal/OSHA detailed lack of training and were issued to repeat violators; two items that could be addressed with the development of an official heat-stress standard. Most importantly, the House Education and Labor Committee, as a part of the 2011 Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, is directing OSHA to develop the workplace standard. Although currently only five states have heat stress standards, Parker has been eyeing the development of a federal standard saying as of September 2022, “… [OSHA’s] next top priority is going to be heat.” Facilities located in areas where heat stress occurs, both indoor and outdoor, should consider developing their own heat stress policy to get ahead of potential enforcement actions and the strong likelihood that a federal standard will require one anyway.

Last in our 2023 lookahead, the Heat Illness Prevention Campaign pushed OSHA to develop an OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool Application (App) that can be used in the field to assist in making real-time decisions around heat stress and employee monitoring. The first digital solution (DS) known to be developed by OSHA. The health and safety field will continue to see better and better DSs to improve efficiency, access to safety statistics, benchmarking, and ultimately safety performance and company decision making in 2023. Platforms, dashboards, graphics, and ease of use are characteristics we are finally seeing as DSs evolve to serve health and safety professionals across multiple business sectors. Fortunately, OSHA is on board with these progressions, and possibly sending subtle messages on how companies can improve their safety programs: by implementing better, more comprehensive, effortless DS.

Health and safety issues are at the forefront of policy making, and companies need to be aware of how this could affect their business operations moving forward.  Do you have questions about OSHA or managing risks associated with Occupational Health and Safety?  Contact us!


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