Get Ready for More Aggressive OSHA, Foulke Warns

OSHA is likely to be more aggressive in enforcement, rulemaking, and various other ways, Fisher & Phillips LLP Co-Chairs Edwin Foulke Jr. and Howard A. Mavity predicted in a 65-minute webinar today urging employers to tune up their safety and health programs while there's still time. Foulke headed OSHA until he joined the law firm's Atlanta office in November 2008, and he previously headed the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC).

He and Mavity said OSHA is likely to be more aggressive in various ways, from filing more egregious cases in which an employer is cited on a per-instance basis to pushing harder for employers to pay for and provide PPE and training, filing more General Duty Clause cases, pressuring the 26 state plans to be more aggressive, and putting more emphasis on key areas such as combustible dust, amputations, and recordkeeping.

Foulke predicted OSHA will move to enact a new ergonomics standard within the next two years. Mavity said he expects that to happen within one year. That would probably provoke a huge response from business but may be difficult to accomplish because the way the 2001 ergonomics standard was repealed makes it harder to enact another one.

Foulke said he and Mavity are regularly surprised that employers don’t know what rights they have during an OSHA inspection. They sent an inspection checklist to registrants for the webinar that spells these out, and today both of them stressed the importance of being proactive. OSHA's new aggressiveness hasn’t really started, but it will soon, they said.

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