Each year the US department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announces a list of their priorities for the following year. In fact, they often release updates throughout the year, but the one that comes out at this time of the year typically gets the most attention. All companies would be wise to take a close look at the list of priorities this year, and begin planning any steps that will be necessary to become, or remain, in compliance with all the rules and regulations from OSHA.
This year’s announcement states that the primary regulations it is targeting in 2014 are part of a broader plan they refer as a ‘plan/prevent/protect’ approach. The plan is, according to OSHA,
“designed to ensure employers and other regulated entities are in full compliance with the law every day, not just when the Department of Labor engages an employer.”
This is, in the opinion of many, a good approach which will prevent the practice of some employers who ignore regulations until they are inspected by OSHA. Prior to the inspection, they get everything up to where it should be, pass the inspection, and then revert back to the in-compliant state.
Part of this practice will also involve providing improved transparency in the processes. This not only means that the agency will be more open about their practices, but also that employers, workers and even the public will be given more information about the results of OSHA inspections. These results, the agency likely hopes, will put additional pressure on employers to remain in compliance with the regulations.
This additional transparency should also provide employees with an easier way to report workplace violations to OSHA, so violations can be more quickly addressed. OSHA is reportedly looking at what type of financial and resource burdens these requirements will put on small businesses. They want to make sure that these requirements don’t negatively impact small businesses, or any impact is as minimal as possible.
New Rules for 2014
In addition to announcing where much of the focus of the agency will be in the coming year, they also anticipate several new rules to get their final approval, and be put into effect during the upcoming year. These rules should be looked at closely by employers now, so they can prepare any adjustments that they need to make in order to be in-compliance. The rules are concerning confined spaces for the construction industry, record and reporting requirements regarding injuries or illness, updates to the requirements surrounding slips and falls, and others.
OSHA is regularly updating their rules and regulations, and laws at local, state and federal levels often have impacts on these regulations as well. With this in mind, it can be difficult for businesses to keep up on the exact requirements they will be faced with from day to day. This is one more reason why this announcement from OSHA is so important for employers to review. It can give them the lead time to prepare for any changes that may affect their business.
Additional Proposed Changes
The announcement from OSHA not only discussed what types of things they will be focusing on in 2014, but also some of the proposed changes they will be pushing for throughout the year. Whether or not they will be approved, or take effect in 2014, is hard to say, but these types of things can give a lot of advanced notice on the direction the agency is taking.
Some of the areas where OSHA has proposed changes include with improving record-keeping to take advantage of modern technologies, and proposals regarding exposure of employees to crystalline silica. They also discuss the importance of whistleblower protection, where they hope to keep those who report problems protected from any negative repercussions.
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