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OSHA is Coming… and You Invited Them In!

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Several years ago, OSHA published a final rule requiring many employers to file information from the OSHA 300A form each year, electronically. The rule gives OSHA access to a company’s recent injury information and statistics. While not stated in the final rule, the agency can use this information to target employers for inspection. Below is a redacted copy of a letter an employer recently received from OSHA:

“Dear Employer:

This year, more than 250,000 establishments electronically submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 2018 Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A) information. OSHA used this information to identify workplaces with Days Away from Work, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rates higher than the average rate for their industry (https://www.bls.gov/iif/osheval.htm). Your workplace was identified as one in which injuries are occurring at a rate higher than most other workplaces in your industry. 

Following is the 2018 OSHA Form 300A data reported by your workplace: 

Company:   XXXXX

ID:   XXXXX   NAICS:   326111 

Establishment:   XXXXXXXXXX 

Address:   XXXXXXXXX 

OSHA recognizes that the DART rate does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest in workplace safety and health. If you are one of the many employers who would welcome help from experts in workplace safety and health, OSHA has many compliance assistance resources, several of which are at no cost and confidential. 

If you are a small employer with fewer than 250 workers on-site and no more than 500 workers corporate-wide, OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program is available to you. This program is administered by state governments completely separate from OSHA’s enforcement program. The program assists employers to identify and eliminate or control hazards effectively and economically. More information on this program, including contact information for the local office in your state is available at https://www.osha.gov/consultation. 

OSHA has resources to assist a company to develop and implement a safety and health program. Such a program to find and fix workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness can proactively reduce injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Not only do employers experience dramatic decreases in workplace injuries, but they also often report a transformed workplace that can lead to higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction. If you use the On-Site Consultation Program, the state consultant can help you develop an injury and illness prevention program. More information can be found on the OSHA webpage at www.osha.gov

Other avenues to address this issue include hiring an outside safety and health consultant, working with your insurance carrier, or contacting your state’s workers’ compensation agency for advice to address a high DART rate. In addition, engaging your workers to identify hazards and find solutions is a proactive method to resolving safety and health hazards. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Sincerely, 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration”

We’ve advised the employer to take this notice very seriously. The employer is experiencing injuries that result in lost workdays, restricted workdays, or a combination of both, at a rate five times their peers. This is known as the DART rate, and it is the injury incident rate OSHA has targeted for many years. 

If you have more than 20 employees, your company is likely required to file information from your 300A form, electronically. OSHA takes this data and calculates incident rates, including the targeted DART rate. Your DART rate is compared to the peer rate for your industry. Employers whose DART rate exceeds their peer group may be targeted for inspection. OSHA believes focusing on employers whose DART rate exceeds that of their peer group will result in improvements in safety. Unfortunately, inspections often result in citations for violations that have little to do with the cause of injuries on the OSHA log. 

If your company receives a letter like this, you need to prepare for the possibility of an OSHA inspection. Inspections triggered by high incident rates are comprehensive, wall-to-wall inspection events. This means the compliance officer has the authority to examine and evaluate everything and anything. Depending on the size of your operations, these inspections can range from several days to several weeks and can result in many citations and tens of thousands of dollars in penalties. 

Unless you are confident your operations are in full compliance with all OSHA requirements, we recommend you retain a safety professional to complete a comprehensive OSHA compliance audit of your facilities, equipment, and programs. Also, many employers mistakenly over report on their OSHA logs, which can inflate the critical DART rate. A safety professional can evaluate your logs to determine if you are correctly completing your OSHA logs. 

OSHA mentions an “on-site consultation program” in the letter. Unless you are unable to pay a qualified safety consultant to evaluate your program, we recommend against using the consultation programs. These programs are funded by the respective state and some programs, such as Illinois, may take many months before a state-sponsored safety professional can evaluate your operations. More importantly, anything they find must be abated in the time frame and manner prescribed, or they will turn the case over to OSHA for enforcement. Our consulting group has been hired to come in and do damage control many times after the state consultation program approach backfired. Beware of ANYTHING the government offers for free! 

Therefore, What Should You Do?

  1.  Understand how to complete an OSHA 300 Log and 300A summary form, properly
  2.  Understand how to calculate OSHA incident rates and compare to your peer group
  3.  Understand elevated incident rates, specifically the DART rate, can result in a comprehensive inspection of your operation
  4.  Hire a qualified safety consultant to thoroughly evaluate OSHA compliance if incident rates exceed the peer group

These letters are a warning to employers of the possibility of an inspection. Ignoring the warning is an open invitation for the agency to inspect and issue any citations and penalties for non-compliance. While our group has the expertise to assist clients through the OSHA inspection process and aftermath, we’d much rather focus our efforts and attention on achieving compliance BEFORE an inspection occurs. Contact Horton Safety Consultants if your business received a similar letter from OSHA or if you have questions concerning OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping standard. 

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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