Employers on OSHA Severe Violators List Nearly Double in Past Year, Data Show

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In the two years since the start of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to add employers to the list of offenders (40 OSHR 531, 6/24/10).

As of the end of June, 330 establishments were designated as severe violators, according to OSHA data. In July 2011, OSHA reported that 182 employers had been cited under the program.

Meanwhile, 59 establishments on the list since the program's June 2010 start have been removed after successfully appealing a citation that landed them in the program.

At the same time, OSHA officials continue to review an internal report analyzing the program, including the criteria used to determine which establishments are designated as severe violators and the criteria for employers to demonstrate they no longer deserve the designation (42 OSHR 517, 6/7/12).

“The SVEP report has been completed and is currently being reviewed by senior OSHA officials,” an agency spokesman told BNA July 24. “The report's findings will be released once OSHA's internal review has been completed.”

Construction Companies Account for Most on List

Of the establishments on the severe violator list, construction companies continued to account for most, with 52 percent (172) of the businesses, down from 61 percent a year ago.

Manufacturing was the next largest category with 31 percent (102) of the listings, compared with 19 percent a year ago. Wholesale trade was the only other category in double digits, with 26 companies, roughly the same as last year.

Of the 330 SVEP establishments, 35 percent (114) are contesting the OSHA allegations, while 44 percent (144) are not challenging their citations, according to OSHA. The challenge status of the other establishments was not listed by the agency.

One quarter of the cited businesses have settled with OSHA. Of the employers reaching an accord, 22 percent (71) signed an “enhanced settlement agreement” with OSHA, and 3 percent (8) agreed to informal settlements. An enhanced settlement could involve any of several options for an establishment, such as hiring safety and health consultants, making the settlement apply to all the company's sites, and submitting quarterly injury and illness reports to OSHA, according to the program's directive.

How Establishments Made the List

To be declared a severe violator, an establishment must have experienced a fatality or an accident that hospitalized at least three workers or been cited for significant violations of OSHA standards.

A majority of establishments, 53 percent (174), were put on the SVEP list as a result of inspections producing two or more willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate citations for “high-gravity” violations related to hazards classified as “high-emphasis” by OSHA, the agency's data showed. High-emphasis hazards include falls, amputations, entrapment in excavations, combustible dust, shipbreaking, grain handling, and overexposure to lead or silica.

Citations for other hazards, such as lockout/tagout or crowded exits, do not trigger the SVEP designation. This is why a small roofing company cited for repeat fall prevention violations can be on the list while a retail chain store cited for repeat violations of improperly stacked boxes does not make the list.

Another 22 percent (74) of the establishments earned the severe violator designation when OSHA inspections, triggered by problems at a different site operated by the same employer, turned up problems during the follow-up visits.

Inspections after workplace fatalities that found at least one willful or repeat violation or failure-to-abate notice resulted in 27 percent (59) of the SVEP listings. Employers that had “egregious” violations account for 8 percent (27) of the severe violators.

The total percentage for the SVEP justifications adds up to more than 100 percent because in some cases two reasons were cited for inclusion on the severe violator list.

As for the geographic distribution of SVEP establishments, 31 percent (103) were in OSHA's Region 5, covering the upper Midwest. Region 2, representing the Northeast, accounted for 18 percent (60), ratios that were nearly the same as in June 2011.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

The SVEP list as the end of June is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8whrmp.

The OSHA directive for SVEP is available at http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf.

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