SB 592, if enacted, would create significant changes to the Oregon Safe Employment Act including:
- Allowing for “comprehensive inspection of any place of employment as deemed necessary by the department based upon the prior violation history of the place of employment regarding any state occupational safety or health law, regulation, standard, rule or order.” (Note: the bill currently does not include any time limit on the prior violation “look back” period.)
- Broadening investigation parameters for work-related fatalities and repeat violations.
- Substantially increasing civil penalties, with annual adjustments based on the CPI.
- No longer allowing for penalty adjustments based on employer size unless employer agrees to comply with additional abatement measures.
The Bill has passed in the Senate and is progressing in the House. As currently drafted, SB 592 would be effective upon passage.
These proposed changes are significant for a number of reasons. First, allowing for comprehensive inspections means that OR OSHA could have wall-to-wall jurisdiction over an entire worksite, without the need to establish probable cause of a violation, based solely on what the inspector deems necessary. Second, without a defined look back period, an employer with any citation history, no matter how long ago, would be subject to a comprehensive inspection at the discretion of the OR OSHA. Finally, employers should be wary of agreeing to abatement measures simply to reduce the penalty as the cost of the abatement will often exceed the amount of the penalty.