New Study: OSHA Inspections Lower Workers Compensation Costs

[tweetmeme] A new study says it confirms that OSHA’s inspections not only prevent workers from getting hurt on the job, they also save billions of dollars for employers through reduced workers’ compensation costs. The study by business school economists at the University of California and Harvard University, analyzed how workplace safety inspections affected injury rates and other outcomes. In a comparison of 409 randomly inspected establishments in California with 409 matched-control establishments that were eligible, but not chosen, for inspection the study found no evidence that the inspection process and subsequent corrective actions came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or the firm’s survival.

Key Findings from the Study

  • 9.4% drop in injury claims at workplaces in the four years following an inspection
  • 26% average savings on workers’ compensation costs compared to similar, non-inspected companies
  • $355,000 average savings for an employer (small or large) as a result of an OSHA inspection
  • $6 billion estimated savings to employers nationwide

As researchers David Levine, Michael Toffel, and Matthew Johnson explain, “The benefits of a randomized safety inspection appear to be substantial.  These results do not support the hypothesis that OSHA regulations and inspections on average have little value in improving health and safety.” Furthermore, the researchers found “no evidence that these improvements came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.”

Dr. David Michaels responded strongly to the study,  “I have been promoting that message since I became head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration almost three years ago. It is supported by empirical evidence—and now—it’s been confirmed by a peer-reviewed study published in Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals. Not only that, the new study, conducted by professors at the University of California and Harvard Business School, shows that OSHA inspections save billions of dollars for employers through reduced workers compensation costs.”  OSHA’s full response to the study.

Read the entire study here.  “Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with No Detectable Job Loss,”

Get By With A Little Help From A Friend: Safety Professionals & Trainers

[tweetmeme]Recently I had the great pleaure of getting to know more and more experienced safety professionals and trainers using LinkedIn Groups.    Some of the more interesting subjects within our industry are being discussed right now by a wide range of professionals whose insight and knowledge has helped me immensely in my career.   I have listed below a couple of the more interesting blog posts that I have discovered using LinkedIn.   

The Most Overlooked Paragraph in the OSHA Standards

Several months ago I was reading posts made by members in one of the many social networking groups I belong to that are dedicated to occupational health and safety matters. The original discussion question inquired about the regulations that should be applied to workers who were not wearing fall protection harnesses while spreading metal decking…(read more).

Don’t Overlook OSHA’s “Unscheduled” Refresher Training Requirements

When I conduct mock-OSHA inspections for companies, we spend a lot of time focusing on their employee safety training efforts. What we typically find is that most employers provide a new employee safety orientation to get the newbies up to speed on the mandatory OSHA topics…(read more).

Beware – Where Behavior Based Safety Programs and OSHA Standards Collide

Occasionally a company that has implemented an OSHA compliance program asks me for recommendations to help them “go to the next level” and “exceed OSHA compliance”. Often times I recommend they look into implementing a behavior based safety (BBS) program to compliment what they have in place. Many of you in the safety profession already know what a behavior based safety program is…(read more)

EPRCA Tier II Reports born from Tragedy

[tweetmeme]In the early morning of December 3, 1984, a Union Carbide plant near Bhopal, India released approximately forty tons of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) into the air. The gas quickly spread over the ground and, in the end, killed upwards to 5,000 people and injured 50,000 more. The other place that Union Carbide manufactured MIC was at its Institute plant in West Virginia. Following the Bhopal release Union Carbide elected to shut down production of the deadly chemical at its West Virginia location until it could make $500 million worth of safety improvements.

New Safety Programs

Approximately four months after completion of the safety improvement program, 500 gallons of highly toxic aldchiloxin (and MIC) leaked from the plant. Although no one was killed, 134 people living around the plant were treated at local hospitals.

Both the Bhopal and West Virginia incidents highlighted the serious nature of modern-day chemical production — no matter what safety precautions are taken, no matter how well trained a plant’s employees may be, and no matter how prepared a plant may be to handle an emergency situation, accidents can still occur and people may die.

Congress Acts

With thousands of chemical accidents occurring in the United States within a five year period in the mid-1980s, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986, ushering in a new wave of regulations and reporting requirements designed to alert the surrounding communities of the dangers posed at chemical facilities in the U.S.

To implement EPCRA, Congress required each state to appoint a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). The SERCs are required to divide their states into Emergency Planning Districts and to name a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for each district.

The facilities covered by EPCRA requirements are now required to submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to their LEPC, as well as their SERC, and their local fire department annually by March 1st.

The reports known as “Tier II Reports,” require basic facility identification information, employee contact information for both emergencies and non-emergencies, and information about chemicals stored or used at the facility.
Under the EPCRA, SERCs and LEPCs are charged with four primary responsibilities:

  1. Write emergency plans to protect the public from chemical accidents;
  2. Establish procedures to warn and, if necessary, evacuate the public in case of an emergency;
  3. Provide citizens and local governments with information about hazardous chemicals and accidental releases of chemicals in their communities; and
  4. Assist in the preparation of public reports on annual release of toxic chemicals into the air, water, and soil.

Tier II Reporting Information

What facilities are covered?

  • Any facility required under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to maintain material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous chemicals stored or used in the work place. Facilities with chemicals in quantities that equal or exceed the following thresholds must report:
  • For Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) , either 500 pounds or the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ), whichever is lower
  • For gasoline (all grades combined) at a retail gas station, the threshold level is 75,000 gallons (or approximately 283,900 liters), if the tank(s) was stored entirely underground and was in compliance at all times during the preceding calendar year with all applicable Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements at 40 CFR part 280 or requirements of the State UST program approved by the Agency under 40 CFR part 281.
  • For diesel fuel (all grades combined) at a retail gas station, the threshold level is 100,000 gallons (or approximately 378,500 liters), if the tank(s) was stored entirely underground and the tank(s) was in compliance at all times during the preceding calendar year with all applicable Underground Storage Tank (UST) requirements at 40 CFR part 280 or requirements of the State UST program approved by the Agency under 40 CFR part 281.
  • For all other hazardous chemicals, 10,000 pounds.

Tier2 Submit Software

  • EPA has recently developed ‘Tier2 Submit,’ an online software program designed to help facilities prepare an electronic chemical inventory report. Although many states accept Tier2 Submit, some states such as Missouri do not.

Certification

  • The owner or operator or the officially designated representative of the owner or operator must certify that all information included in the Tier Two submission is true, accurate, and complete.

Penalties:

  • Any owner or operator who violates any Tier II reporting requirements shall be liable to the United States for civil penalty of up to $27,500 per day for each such violation.
  • Although each day a violation continues shall constitute a separate violation it has been EPA’s policy not to enforce the daily penalty on those companies making a good faith effort to come into compliance with the reporting requirements.

For more information on EPA Tier II reporting requirements visit their website.  Specific state requirements links can also be found there.

OSHA 2013 Budget Request Unchanged From 2012

[tweetmeme]The U.S. Department of Labor today outlined its part of the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget request to Congress, which according to DOL focuses on efficiently achieving the department’s goals while exercising fiscal restraint.    See Summary below:

For information on the president’s FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Labor, visit http://www.dol.gov/budget.

 

OSHA Slashes Number of Online Trainers and Encourages Enrollment at OTI Ed. Centers

[tweetmeme]The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced earlier this month, its selection of only 10 OSHA authorized training providers out of the hundreds of applicants to deliver online courses as part of its Outreach Training Program.  Although more than 135,000 workers were trained online in 2011, which represents a five-fold increase from the number of online students trained in 2007, OSHA dramatically curtailed the overall number of online training providers available for prospective students to chose from.

Of the newly anointed 10 authorized providers, only two are non-profits or Universities, with the bulk of the providers being private for-profit companies.   Several high profile online providers who previously offered OSHA online Outreach courses were not selected by OSHA including, The University of South Florida, 360Training.com, Coastal Training Technologies, Summit Training Source, and Redvector.

Not all of the new providers that OSHA authorized even have currently available programs, according to OSHA.  Those organizations must still work on building an acceptable program in order to receive a full blessing from OSHA. So the overall number of online course providers may get smaller in the coming months.  In an email received from Mr. Don Guerra, OSHA Program Manager, OSHA continued to recommend that prospective students “compare program offerings and pricing from multiple providers” in order to determine which one best meets their training needs.  However given this latest round of cuts to available online providers, it is highly probable the cost for this online training will rise dramatically for prospective students and employers given the lack of competition in the marketplace.

OSHA also continues to encourage  students to consider taking classroom training instead of online courses.   Which of course, are being offered  and marketed by the OSHA Education Centers around the country in direct competition to private and public classroom training providers.   Although no direct link has been suggested between the slashing of online providers and the encouragement to go to the OSHA Ed. Centers; a clearer message could not have been received!

See the January 12, 2012 news release on new online Outreach Training Program selections.

New and Currently available programs 

Programs that will no longer be available after March 31, 2012 

 

Congress Reaches Consensus on OSHA 2012 Budget

[tweetmeme]Congress has reached an agreement on fiscal year 2012 spending after passing seven continuing resolutions over the past few months.  The FY2012 budget agreement is in the form of an omnibus bill that rolled all of the remaining appropriations bills into one big bill.  After all the political fighting back and forth, Congress decided to reverse some of the Obama administrations priorities of the past couple of years.  Gone are the increasing budgets for enforcement and new field compliance officers, this budget is aimed at returning OSHA to offering more compliance assistance and investing in public/private partnerships.

OSHA’s 2012 Budget 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) budget will increase by a little more than $7 million in 2012, however the way that money is to be spent will change.  Compliance assistance programs received the largest increase in OSHA’s budget nearly $6.5 million more than the Obama administration had requested.   Most of the other budget increases requested by Obama were rejected by Congress, including an $8 million request for increased enforcement.

Say Goodbye to the idea of a MSD Column on the OSHA 300 Log

In one of the more interesting turn of events, Congress included an addendum to OSHA’s budget which states that “None of the funds made available may be used to continue the development of or to promulgate, administer, enforce, or otherwise implement the Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements – Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Column being developed by OSHA.”

MSHA Receives a Boost!

Also as expected the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) received a $12 million boost in their budget for increased coal enforcement, technical support and program administration.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) budget was severely slashed by Congress to the tune of $41 million decrease.  This is somewhat explained by the addition of funding from the “evaluation tap funding” which puts NIOSH’s reduction closer to $22 million.

A complete breakdown of how the 2012 budget may look is presented here: