OSHA Can Now Connect the Dots and Track Your Company’s Inspection Trends

OSHA has long been hampered by its difficulty in coordinating between different Federal Area Offices and State Plans. Inspections at companies or construction contractors with many locations tend to be viewed one work site at a time, other than for purposes of determining “repeat” classification.

I assume that system limitations are one of the reasons that neither the current administration or the previous one has yet really carried through on threats to aggressively follow-up on other locations of companies placed on OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program list. A lack of proper programs and a better data base has largely prevented any sort of systematic tracking of company trends and development of a corporate wide focus. OSHA did not have access to much more immediate data than do private employers doing establishment searches at http://www.osha.gov.

Not anymore….

Since 2006, the DOL has spent about $70 million developing and rolling out a software and hardware system known as the OSHA Information System (OIS) which reportedly will increasingly allow OSHA managers and inspectors to compare inspection trends in different jurisdictions, better track potential repeat offenders, and update the nationwide system several times a day.
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The implementation has been tough and even in May 2012, the DOl commented on problems in merging old data from the current system into the new OIS.

Because of the transitory nature of the business, construction employers have presented special challenges to OSHA and this system may make it easier for each Area Office and CSHO to determine whether a contractor has been cited or inspected before. Apparently, the old system maintained the inspection location and a mailing address, but not a business address. This omission especially affected responses to smaller or lesser known contractors working in multiple OSHA jurisdictions.

The new OIS also offers a way to sort through misspelled business names or names that are close to what compliance officer is searching for, features missing from the old system.

OSHA–DC gains more tools to track Area Office performance, such as by more accurately comparing the performance of Area Offices by looking at trends involving which violations were cited, the size of penalties, and how many violations on average were cited from inspections.

The system also allows the electronic storing of citations, inspection reports, photographs, and other case file material, which is a substantial improvement for CSHO’s.

OSHA hopes to expand the OIS to the 27 states and territory plans sometime in 2013, but that may be more complicated.

Alas, employers will not have access to OIS. The http://www.osha.gov site will now include additional inspection information that highlights why cases have not been closed, such as failure to pay fines or to complete abatement.

OIS is not the coming of “Big Brother,” but once Area Offices work out the kinks, the OIS system will make their jobs easier and will expose employers operating in multiple jurisdictions to more risk.

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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