Once an employer with an egregious health and safety record lands in OSHA’s biggest, baddest doghouse, how does he or she get out?
Two years after it built the doghouse—formally, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is showing employers the key.
Established in June 2010 as a successor to OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program is designed to target federal health and safety resources to what the agency calls “recalcitrant” employers—those that “demonstrate indifference” to worker health and safety by accumulating multiple willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.
|The list of Severe Violators currently includes Gerardi Sewer and Water, of Norridge, IL., which was fined $360,000 for trench cave-in hazards; and adhesives maker Bostik, which paid a $600,000 fine after a 2011 explosion at its plant in Middleton, MA.|
A variety of infractions can land an employer in program, although the designation is not automatic. Precipitating events include fatalities and catastrophes; “high-emphasis hazards”; and violations of process safety management rules, which are designed to prevent a catastrophic chemical release.
As of June 30, the SVEP list included more than 330 companies, many of them construction-related, including a handful of coatings companies. About 60 companies obtained removals from the program in the first two years by successfully appealing the citations that landed them there.
Until now, however, companies that were put in the program with legitimate violations were not told how to get out.
On Aug. 16, OSHA issued removal criteria for employers from SVEP. Not surprisingly, the process is lengthy and exacting.
Generally, an employer may be considered for removal from the program by an OSHA Regional Administrator after:
1) A period of three years from the date of the final disposition of the SVEP inspection citation items, including failure to contest, settlement agreement, Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission final order, or Court of Appeals decision.
2) All affirmed violations have been abated, all final penalties have been paid, the employer has abided by and completed all settlement provisions, and has not received any additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or at any related establishments.
Employers that violate the terms and provisions of the removal agreement will remain in the program for three more years before being reevaluated.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.