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July 01, 2013
North Carolina OSHA: Enforcement is alive and well

North Carolina’s OSHA program conducted about 4,300 inspections during the last fiscal year. That’s almost twice the number conducted by most state programs and considerably more than the average state where federal OSHA is in charge. The state cited 9,742 total violations last year.

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According to an Occupational Safety and Health Division spokesperson, special emphasis programs are an essential tool in the state’s enforcement strategy. Like their federal counterparts, state-specific emphasis programs feature increased inspection, as well as increased compliance assistance.

Current emphasis programs address long-term care facilities, sawmills, food manufacturing, logging, and heat-related illness. A construction emphasis program is targeted at counties with a high number of fatalities and/or those with a high rate of construction activity.

The state plan’s Consultative Services Bureau provides free on-site consultation to help employers comply with safety and health standards. The Bureau also administers the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small and midsize businesses that establish and maintain effective safety programs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Division recently introduced SHARP initiatives for public sector employers and construction. Contractors seeking entry into SHARP must submit an initial self-assessment and demonstrate management commitment and employee involvement in safety. Companies then undergo an in-depth, on-site evaluation that must be attended by the top management official.

Contractors must also identify three on-site subcontractors, who are also subject to a comprehensive consultative visit. Any hazards identified are communicated to the general contractor.

What North Carolina inspectors are finding

The state’s most frequently cited serious violations in general industry include:

  • Machine guarding,
  • General Duty Clause,
  • Machine guarding—abrasive wheel machinery,
  • Medical and first aid (eyewash and emergency showers),
  • Hazard Communication (written program),
  • Eye and face protection,
  • Electrical (grounding),
  • Walking and working surfaces,
  • Personal protective equipment, and
  • Electrical cabinets.

Enforcement firmly on track

In 1991, federal OSHA assumed what’s known as “concurrent enforcement jurisdiction” with the state after a tragic fire at a poultry processing plant killed 25 workers. Federal OSHA maintained an enforcement presence until 1995, when it determined that the state had taken sufficient action to correct its program, including increasing funding and staffing.

Today, the North Carolina State Plan is operating with high enforcement numbers and active consultation and compliance assistance programs.

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