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March 20, 2014
OSHA asks for authority to inspect small businesses
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

In OSHA’s 2015 proposed budget, the agency asks Congress to allow targeted inspections of small businesses that have the potential for catastrophic incidents. What does this proposed change mean for your company? Keep reading to find out.

According to OSHA, the agency is currently limited in its ability to inspect small businesses (i.e., those with 10 or fewer employees) in industries with lower-than-average injury and illness rates. However, citing the example of the West Fertilizer explosion in April 2013, OSHA states in its budget justification, “Neither the number of workers in a business, nor the level of injury and illness rates, are predictive of the potential for high-consequence catastrophic incidents, resulting in multiple casualties and extensive property damage.”

To ensure that small businesses are following safety regulations, OSHA asks Congress to amend the appropriations language to allow targeted safety and health inspections of businesses with 10 or fewer employees where the potential for catastrophic chemical incidents exists. Specifically, OSHA seeks the authority to inspect small facilities covered by its Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chemical Accident Prevention Program. Employers conducting farming harvesting or processing operations would not be subject to this change.

Currently, OSHA’s involvement with small companies in industries with below-average injury and illness rates is limited to defined circumstances. These include providing consultation and education, conducting surveys and studies, responding to employee complaints, acting on imminent dangers, responding to fatalities or multiple employee hospitalizations, and responding to allegations of whistleblower retaliation.

The requested language change is the latest in a series of actions OSHA has taken in response to Executive Order (EO) 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” which tasked OSHA and other agencies with coordinating their efforts to prevent future catastrophic chemical incidents like the one in West, Texas. OSHA states in its budget justification that EO 13650 “will have a major impact on the agency’s rulemaking activities.”

Overall, OSHA is requesting $565 million in funding for fiscal year (FY) 2015—approximately a 2.3% increase over the funding levels in FY 2014. Of that amount, $210.8 million (37%) would be dedicated to federal enforcement, which would allow the agency to conduct 38,250 federal inspections. $139 million (25.5%) would fund compliance assistance programs, and $104 million (18.4%) would fund state programs. Safety and health standards, whistleblower programs, technical support, safety and health statistics, and executive direction account for the remainder of the budget.

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