OSHA recently renewed a Local Emphasis Enforcement Program (“LEP”) that targets hotel operators in OSHA’s Region 2, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The directive outlining OSHA’s Hotel LEP is available on OSHA’s website.
The Hotel LEP was launched in October 2010, and during the first year of the initiative, OSHA limited enforcement inspections to hotels in the Virgin Islands. According to an OSHA Region 2 official, the agency started in the Virgin Islands because of a high number of reports of workplace injuries at hotels in that area. Since the start of the LEP, OSHA has essentially inspected a different hotel property each month to month and a half. The hotel properties subject to LEP inspections have ranged from locally-owned motels to multinational hotel chains.
The violations cited by OSHA during the first round of the Hotel LEP are consistent with the standards that have historically been the most frequently cited in the hospitality industry, including hazard communication, electrical and fire safety issues, recordkeeping, and others as depicted in the table below:
Most Frequently Cited Standards in the Hotel Industry in 2010
Click here to view table
Historically, OSHA’s inspection history in the hotel industry has been limited to referrals and employee complaints. With the help of organized labor, employee complaints are still a problem for hotel employers as we emphasized earlier this year. With the Hotel LEP, OSHA is now also conducting programmed inspections, which represents a significant shift in OSHA’s enforcement strategy in the hospitality industry. This shift is consistent with the agency’s overall enforcement strategy. Specifically, OSHA under the Obama Administration has moved from a reactionary agency, only inspecting workplaces after an accident or complaint, to a proactive agency, targeting particular industries and hazards the agency wants to emphasis. Based on the fact that OSHA launched this Hotel LEP and decided to renew it for at least another year after reviewing the inspection data from the first year of the program, the hospitality industry is an industry on OSHA’s radar.
Accordingly, hotels throughout the rest of Region 2 should be on especially high alert, as it is common for OSHA to use one Area Office within a Region (e.g., the Virgin Islands in Region 2), as a pilot program from which to expand LEP inspections into other areas of the same Region. Now is the time for hotel operators in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and across the country to make certain they are in compliance with OSHA’s regulations, particularly those frequently cited standards referenced in the table above.