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Do OSHA Actions Signal Changes?

Recent actions by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggest a widespread change in how it deals with the employers it regulates.

On June 28, it announced that the deadline for employers to file illness and injury reports electronically is postponed to Dec. 1. OSHA earlier had delayed the effective date to July 1, and said it was considering a further delay (AA, 5-31-17, P. 3).

OSHA said the postponement will “provide the new administration an opportunity to review the new electronic reporting requirements prior to their implementation.”

Employers objected to the rule developed under the Obama Administration because it makes the injury and illness reports available to the public, including competitors, union organizers and tort lawyers.

Around the same time, OSHA also announced that it will hold a public meeting on July 17 to receive suggestions from stakeholders on how to strengthen its Voluntary Protection Programs.

Introduced in 1982, VPP allows employers to adopt and comply with written safety and health management plans in exchange for being removed from OSHA’s programmed inspection lists.

Although worksites remain subject to non-programmed inspections resulting from accidents or complaints, adopting this program lowers their overall odds of being inspected.

“The renewed focus on the program signals a reinvigorated effort to work cooperatively with employers,” says attorney Matthew Cooper of the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs.

OSHA also held its first “Safe + Sound Week” June 12-18, offering assistance for employers to review and update their safety and health programs.

The agency said that this safety and health program approach requires top management commitment, and a proactive process of finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness, which includes encouraging workers to identify solutions.

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