This week we are attending the ABA Occupational Safety and Health Law Meeting in Tucson, Arizona.  The Agency, the Review Commission, and the Solicitor’s Office all have numerous representatives here.  This morning, Tom Galassi, OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) spoke about key issues in enforcement.  Some of the highlights important to industry are:

Ergonomics:

Ergonomics continues to be a focus for OSHA.  The Agency expects to conduct approximately 240 ergonomics inspections this year, which is consistent with statistics from past years.  Nursing homes and other health care facilities continue to be a focus of OSHA’s enforcement efforts in this area.

Workplace Violence:

OSHA has already issued 3 workplace violence citations under the General Duty Clause this year, and has 29 open workplace violence inspections right now.  Mr. Galassi stressed that night retail businesses, health care facilities, and social services should ensure they are taking steps to protect workers from workplace violence.

Heat:

With summer just around the corner, OSHA will be taking a hard look at heat stress.  Last year the Agency received 180 non-formal employee complaints relating to heat and conducted 34 fatality inspections out of 266 inspections overall.  Before the heat hits, employers with outdoor employees should take steps to develop and train employees on heat-related illnesses and injuries.

Importantly, OSHA has no regulations on ergonomics workplace violence and heat, but can issue citations under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, i.e., the General Duty Clause.  Courts have interpreted the General Duty Clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of “recognized” hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.  OSHA routinely uses the General Duty Clause to cite employers for alleged workplace violence, ergonomics, and heat hazards.