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OSHA's Offensive: Labor Secretary Solis Pledges More Inspections, Fines

Reade about pending legislation that would give OSHA new ammunition against employers.


OSHA requires employers to record every work-related injury or illness that results in lost work time or medical treatment other than first aid. In its most startling statement, the GAO report said one-third of the surveyed occupational health practitioners reported pressure by employers or workers to limit medical treatment to first aid in order to hide a reportable work-related injury.

The GAO criticized OSHA's processes, particularly its failure to interview workers to verify recorded incidents. Two years commonly elapse between an injury and an OSHA records audit, the GAO said, and by that time workers forget the details or leave the company.

OSHA may also take a more aggressive stance on penalties, citing more companies for willful or repeat violations, which carry fines of $70,000 per violation (as opposed to $7,000 for a serious citation). In addition, the rules governing personal protective equipment (PPE) have been clarified to allow OSHA to issue a citation for each employee who doesn't receive equipment and training on its use, rather than just one citation per workplace, says Patricia Ogden, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg.

"Deterrence is the goal, and the agency believes that high penalties will deter," she says.

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Mary Swanton

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