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What We (Think We) Know About OSHA Enforcement in 2023

Note: OSHA doesn’t give us a playbook of its plans for each year, but based on the information out there, we can make some measured guesses about how the agency will conduct itself.

It was announced early this year that OSHA and MSHA didn’t get their expected fiscal year budget increases, but that doesn’t mean we should expect a quiet 2023. In fact, according to labor attorneys at Fisher Phillips, the odds of OSHA inspecting your workplace are higher than ever.

It’s impossible to predict exactly what the agency will do and focus on this year, but if we read between the lines, here’s what we can reasonably expect from 2023.

Increased Likelihood of OSHA Inspection

OSHA grew its staff of inspectors by 19% last year, which obviously increased its ability to conduct on-site inspections. The additions mean that OSHA has reached a staffing level that law firm Seyfarth Shaw says is higher than in decades. As a result, the firm suggests that employers remain “inspection ready.”

Similarly, labor attorneys at Fisher Phillips suggest, “The odds of OSHA inspecting your workplace in 2023 are higher than ever. And when it does, anticipate that it will issue administrative subpoenas, both to produce documents and provide testimony.”

The Biden administration made no secret that it wanted a more aggressive OSHA, and the increased staffing levels will allow this.

Broad Use of the General Duty Clause

Last year, OSHA emphasized enforcement efforts around heat illness, COVID, and trenching violations by using the General Duty Clause. It’s expected that the agency will continue to use the clause around areas without specific standards, primarily heat injury and infectious disease. Another hazard expected to see an increase in attention this year is workplace violence (which, like the other two, has a standard currently in rulemaking).

Workplace stress is one to keep on your radar under the General Duty Clause. In its November 2022 Safety and Health Topics bulletin, OSHA indicated stress and mental health hazards fall within its jurisdiction. Without a standard or defined inspection process, citations are unlikely to be handed out for stress-related hazards. That said, Seyfarth Shaw points out, “Workplace stress is clearly on OSHA’s radar screen and we can anticipate further activity as OSHA comes up to speed on the issue.”

Expansion of Severe Violator Enforcement Program

Previously limited to certain standards, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) was expanded last year to include violations of all hazards and standards. While the program will continue to focus on repeat offenders, this amendment broadens the scope of the program and brings additional industries within its parameters.

Updated changes to the SVEP can be found in this U.S. Department of Labor blog.

Construction Industry Remains the Lead Offender

Upon revealing its annual list of top citations, OSHA noted that the construction industry accounts for more than half of those violations. Just over 1,000 fatalities were reported in 2020 (latest statistics), with falls to a lower level making up over a third of them. Struck-by-object (15%) and electrocutions (5%) rounded out the top three fatal dangers in construction.

Always Be Prepared for OSHA

Regardless of what ambitions or focus OSHA lays out, the reality is that it will enforce all its standards and there’s no substitute for preparation and compliance. If you need help identifying deficiencies or creating plans to ensure compliance with OSHA and all other regulatory bodies, SITEX is the only call you need to make. We have earned a reputation for doing things right and in the best interest of our customers. We can put you at ease knowing your site is compliant if and when OSHA shows up. Contact us today and don’t fear any OSHA inspection.

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