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June 17, 2013
Minnesota OSHA focuses on service and enforcement

Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) is marking its 40th anniversary by working to become more efficient while maintaining a focus on compliance with state safety laws.

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MNOSHA recently conducted an audit of its review and settlement process, which is used by employers to contest citations and determine if an out-of-court settlement can be negotiated.

The goal was to find ways to reduce the time it takes for an employer’s contested case to be discussed or settled. The review team created an action plan that identifies steps for improvement. One of these is to permit electronic filing of a Notice of Contest and eliminate the need for paper copies of the filing.

What else should Minnesota employers know about their state plan? The program currently has several emphasis inspection programs based on fatality or injury and illness rates and on certain processes or conditions.

Current emphasis programs target foundries, meatpacking plants, and nursing homes. According to MNOSHA, these continue to have high rates of injuries and use hazardous processes. In addition, some emphasis programs target hazardous chemicals or processes that contribute to employee illnesses. An example is a 2011 initiative aimed at industries with both noise and respiratory hazards, as determined by MNOSHA inspection history. 

State analysis of serious injuries or near-catastrophic events (such as a fire or building collapse) have led to other special enforcement programs, including those for window washing, demolition, bridge work, and roofing.

During fiscal year 2012, MNOSHA’s most frequently cited standards were:

  • Employee right-to-know (i.e., Hazard Communication) training;
  • Fall protection in construction;
  • Workplace accident and injury reduction program;
  • Lockout/tagout;
  • Electrical wiring methods, components, and equipment;
  • Machinery and machine guarding;
  • Respiratory protection;
  • Emergency eyewash and showers;
  • Carbon monoxide monitoring; and
  • Powered industrial trucks (i.e., forklifts).

State plan officials say that despite a more than doubling of the state’s workforce, injuries and illnesses have dropped from 15 out of every 100 workers in 1973 to 3.8 in 2011.

MNOSHA is one of 22 state-run OSHA programs. Federal OSHA has scheduled a stakeholder meeting on June 25 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the effectiveness of state plans. The purpose is to gather information and ideas about useful indicators of effectiveness and how OSHA can use these to assess state plans.

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