With a new administration comes new priorities. Among other things, OSHA wants a budget increase to hire another 155 inspectors, with a long-term goal of nearly doubling the number of inspections performed each year. OSHA also wants additional funding to develop new regulations, particularly an infectious disease standard and a workplace violence standard for healthcare.
The agency mentioned those priorities even before President Biden’s speech on September 9, 2021, directing OSHA to create a standard requiring employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination or weekly COVID testing.
OSHA began looking at an infectious disease standard in 2010. The 2021 Spring Regulatory Agenda suggests that this rule would primarily apply in healthcare and other high-risk locations (correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs). However, OSHA noted that the control measures could be necessary in other places “where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people.” Based on experiences with COVID-19, this could potentially include many non-healthcare employers.
Another priority is to create a standard for violence prevention in healthcare and social assistance. OSHA published guidance on this many years ago, but didn’t make an initial request for feedback until 2016. The rule development process then stalled for several years, but is now back on OSHA’s radar.
OSHA is also looking at changes to injury and illness recordkeeping. One change would require an act of Congress to extend the statute of limitations. Currently, OSHA has only six months from the date of a violation to issue a citation. However, employers that create a 300 Log must retain those records for five years and update them during that period. If OSHA finds a violation more than six months old, the agency cannot issue a citation, at least not under current law.
A proposed bill in Congress (HR 1180) would allow six months from the date of discovering a recordkeeping violation to issue a citation. Since the 300 Logs must be kept for five years, this would effectively extend the statute of limitations to five years plus six months for injury recordkeeping violations.
OSHA also opened a regulatory proposal related to the annual reporting of injury records. Currently, employers with 250 or more employees who electronically submit injury records under 1904.41 must only provide the 300A annual summary. A proposed rule would require covered employers to also submit their 300 Logs and 301 incident reports.
OSHA has more in the works beyond the items above, including a proposed rule on hazard communication and a clarification regarding stairway railings. The agency is also considering changes to the forklift and lockout/tagout regulations. To learn more, watch our archived subscriber exclusive webcast OSHA Update: Catch up on the latest rules, enforcement trends, and initiatives from Thursday, September 30, 2021.