Last week, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced three new safety initiatives:
1. Injury and Illness Reporting - OSHA issued a revised directive for its national emphasis program intended to crack down on the underreporting of occupational injuries and illnesses. Companies with large worksites and those with reporting rates significantly under the industry standard will be subject to special investigations through February 2012. In its recent audit of North and South Carolina's state OSHA programs, federal OSHA criticized the lack of similar enforcement efforts based on alleged injury underreporting.
2. Distracted Driving - OSHA announced a new education program specifically aimed at encouraging employers to combat distracted driving by employees. OSHA will prod employers to take clear action prohibiting texting while driving, and will launch a new website intended to advise workers of the dangers posed by distracted driving. While DOT rules already prohibit texting while driving, OSHA is concerned about the practice by drivers of smaller company vehicles not subject to DOT regulation.
3. Noise Exposure - Under current OSHA enforcement policy, employers are only required to implement engineering or administrative control to reduce workplace noise exposure if it is less costly than providing employees with personal protective equipment. OSHA announced that it seeking comment on a proposal to require implementation of engineering and administrative controls wherever feasible, meaning where they are capable of being imposed. Cost would not be the driving factor in making the decision to choose PPE over noise reduction measures. OSHA is accepting comments on this proposal through December 20, 2010.
Information on all three initiatives can be found at www.osha.gov.