In a memorandum dated February 11, 2015, Tom Galassi, Director of Directorate of Enforcement Programs, announced that the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) has been expanded to include upstream oil and gas hazards as High-Emphasis Hazards. Interestingly, the memo was not posted on OSHA’s website until late March after being in effect for over a month.

SVEP was introduced in 2010 expressly “to more effectively focus enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations of the OSH Act.” (OSHA “Severe Violator Enforcement Program White Paper” January 2013.) The memorandum states that upstream oil and gas drilling and well servicing employers are being added to SVEP because they “have experienced a fatality rate that has ranged from five to eight times greater than the national average for all U.S. Industries.” [U.S. DOL BLS].

The implications for employers who are classified by NAICS (codes) as Oil and Gas Production Services, Drilling and Well Servicing/Upstream Oil and Gas Industry is that any time an incident meets the SVEP criteria, the case will now be considered a severe violator enforcement case. In a non-fatality inspection, if OSHA finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices, it will qualify as a severe violator enforcement case.

The sanctions available to OSHA under SVEP are more extensive including; ability to conduct corporate-wide inspections, mandatory follow-up inspections of the same facility, enhanced abatement and settlement terms, and the publication of a press release for every SVEP citation, as well as posting quarterly on the OSHA website a list of SVEP violators. Enhanced Settlement Agreements (ENHSAs) may require among other things that an employer hires a qualified safety and health consultant; the settlement agreement itself may apply corporate-wide regardless of whether a particular worksite has been cited; and an employer may have to submit its Injury and Illness Logs on a quarterly basis and consent to OSHA conducting inspections based on those logs. Finally, once an employer becomes a “severe violator”, it will keep that classification for at least three years before being eligible for removal from the program.

The February 11th, 2015 memorandum can be read in full at