OSHA Casting a Wider Net for "Severe Violators"

Author: Michael Cardman, HR & Compliance Center Senior Legal Editor

September 23, 2022

More employers are likely to be considered "severe violators" in the eyes of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

A new OSHA directive expands the criteria for placement in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), under which employers that continually violate safety laws are subject to:

  • A follow-up inspection one to two years after placement;
  • Inspections of other worksites if OSHA has reasonable grounds to believe that violations identified in the initial inspection may indicate a broader pattern of noncompliance;
  • Bad publicity, including press releases and placement on a public "hall of shame" list of the nation's worst violators, which can harm a company's reputation; and
  • Enhanced penalties, such as being required to hire a safety consultant to develop and implement a safety program.

The new directive expands the SVEP by:

  • Including all hazards and OSHA standards rather than just cases involving fatalities, three or more hospitalizations, the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical and other egregious violations;
  • Placing employers in the program if they commit two or more willful or repeated violations or if OSHA issues failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of high gravity serious violations; and
  • Extending the time before employers can be removed from the program from three years after the final order date to three years after the employer has abated all program-related hazards.

"[The] expanded criteria reflect the Biden-Harris administration's commitment to ensuring OSHA has the tools it needs to ensure employers protect their workers or hold them accountable when they fail to provide safe and healthy workplaces," Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said.