By Robert Iafolla
Feb. 12 --In an effort to better manage its enforcement resources, Occupational Safety and Health Administration chief David Michaels said Feb. 12 that the agency is changing the way it counts inspections to take into account the fact that “not all inspections are created equal.”
Michaels said OSHA will use two systems of crediting the work of inspectors during 2014: the old system of giving each inspection equal weight--regardless of its complexity--and the new system based on “inspection units,” which factors in the time and resources involved. The agency will then move fully to the new system in 2015.
“We believe this will free our inspectors up to do the work that's necessary to do complex inspections with the highest quality,” he said.
Michaels detailed the transition of internal inspection-management policy and other agency activities during a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health.
Michaels discussed with the advisory council OSHA's inspection procedures in light of its recent focus on the safety of temporary workers, which the agency defines as those provided and paid by a staffing agency.
Inspectors discern and record which workers at a job site are temporary, whether they're exposed to any hazards and--if there are any hazards that require training--whether temporary workers were trained in the language that they understand, Michaels said. Inspectors also record the name, location and supervisory structure of the staffing agencies that provided the temporary workers.
“It's early in the process, and for most inspections we don't find temporary workers, but for a substantial number we do, and we're collecting information about that,” Michaels said.
OSHA is working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to develop employer guidance that details best practices for protecting temporary workers, he said.
In addition to inspection practices, Michaels discussed with the advisory council OSHA's online tools to help employers switch to safer chemicals and use more protective exposure limits.
He said the agency is considering adding manufacturers' exposure limits to the list of more protective limits, which currently includes those developed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.
“I know of no suggestion that any of the OSHA [permissible exposure limits] are too stringent, so there are many opportunities for a variety of reduced ones” to be added to the online list, Michaels said.
While the agency understands that these alternative limits aren't legally binding, it wants to do whatever it can to help companies--especially small companies lacking in-house toxicological expertise--to use limits that are more protective than OSHA's grossly out-of-date limits, Michaels said.
“It's probably less important to figure out if they're aiming for 1 ppm or 2 ppm if OSHA's limit is 50,” he said. “If we can help employers move down to 10 or 5, we've made a contribution.”
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