Just when you thought the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had enough to do responding to reported fatalities, amputations, admissions to hospitals, employee complaints, and conducting inspections based on National, Regional, and Local Emphasis Programs, the Agency has announced its return to Site-Specific Targeting inspections.

As of October 16, and for the next 12 months, OSHA will be conducting comprehensive, wall-to-wall inspections, either a safety or a health inspection, based on certain employers’ electronic filing in 2017 of their 2016 OSHA 300A Annual Summary forms. These programmed inspections apply to non-construction workplaces with 20 or more employees that OSHA selects from among what it calls High-Rate and Low-Rate Establishments. High-Rate Establishments are those that OSHA determines have “elevated” Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) injury and illness rates. A sample of Low-Rate Establishments (no offense intended, we assume) are being selected to verify the reliability of the information reported in the 300A forms. OSHA will also be targeting employers who failed to electronically submit their 2016 OSHA 300A forms last year.

Deletions from the targeting list

If an establishment has received a comprehensive safety or health inspection within 36 months of OSHA’s inspection cycle, it will be deleted from the SST inspection list. Similarly, an employer who is participating in either of two OSHA On-Site Consultation Programs is entitled to either be removed from the SST inspection list or have its inspection delayed or deferred. These On-Site Consultation Programs are as follows:

  • The Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. Deferral is allowed if an establishment is in the process of being certified as a SHARP participant. If the establishment is already an approved SHARP participant, it is deleted from the inspection list.
  • The Voluntary Protection Program. Deferral is allowed if a VPP on-site review has been scheduled. If the employer has been certified or approved as a VPP participant, it is deleted from the inspection list.

State OSHAs have until April 16, 2019, to either adopt the federal OSHA SST inspection plan or to implement their own targeting policies and procedures.

Lessons for employers

Although employers can prepare to some extent for an OSHA visit when they self-report fatalities, hospitalizations, and amputations, SST inspections are unannounced and random. OSHA has not described in its new Directive how an employer can determine whether its DART rate is high enough to make it a High-Rate Establishment subject to such comprehensive inspections. Our best advice is that if your DART rate is above the national average for your North American Industry Classification System code, assume that you are subject to, and therefore be prepared for, a comprehensive SST inspection. As a practical matter, you should probably just do the right thing and get in compliance now so that you do not have to worry about whether your workplace is on a targeted list.