The Obama Administration has advanced various initiatives to strengthen OSHA enforcement efforts. The Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”) is a draft OSHA directive expected to take effect in June, 2010. SVEP will replace OSHA’s current Enhanced Enforcement Program. SVEP will direct OSHA enforcement officials to take especially aggressive enforcement steps in four specific circumstances:

The four circumstances that will trigger SVEP enforcement are:

  1. Fatality/Catastrophe

Circumstances involving a fatality or where three or more employees are hospitalized, and where one or more willful, repeat, or failure to abate citations are issued.

  1. High-Emphasis Hazards

Circumstances involving one or more specified high-emphasis hazards where two or more willful, repeat violations or failure to abate citations are issued. Examples of high-emphasis hazards include: certain fall hazards, certain amputation hazards, combustible dust hazards, and certain airborne contaminant hazards. 

  1. Potential Release of a Highly-Hazardous Chemical (Process Safety Management)

Circumstances involving where three or more willful potential release of highly-hazardous chemicals, repeat, or failure to abate citations are issued.

  1. Egregious Cases

All cases where OSHA issues citations under its “Egregious Case” policy, which applies to especially serious safety hazards for which OSHA opts to cite employers separately for every employee exposed.

The unfortunate employer subject to SVEP enforcement will face enhanced and more aggressive follow-up inspections by OSHA, possible nationwide inspections of other facilities that may have similar hazards, notice of citations to national headquarters, employee representatives and unions, issuance of regional and/or nationwide news releases, and more aggressive settlement terms in OSHA settlement agreements.

Worker safety should always be a primary concern, for many obvious reasons. But, initiatives like SVEP and the current efforts in Congress to increase OSHA financial penalties significantly are additional good reasons for all employers to be especially vigilant on matters of workplace safety compliance.