OSHA to Expand Focused Inspections; Management Transitions Abound

January 16, 2008
Client Alert Newsletter Forecast 2008

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") has released a new directive that will expand the Focused Inspection program to include the following seven general industry categories: landscape and horticultural services, oil and gas well drilling and services, preserved fruits and vegetables, primary metals and basic steel products, ship and boat building and repair, public warehousing and storage, and concrete and concrete products. Whereas inspectors typically perform comprehensive inspections looking for all violations, the goal of the Focused Inspection program is to allow OSHA inspectors to use their time more effectively by inspecting only the most hazardous workplace conditions likely to cause fatalities and serious injuries to workers. Eligible employers in these seven general industry categories (i.e., those whose workplaces have lower injury and illness rates than industry averages) can now receive focused inspections in lieu of comprehensive inspections. This directive will allow inspectors to spend less time at establishments performing better than average and more time at establishments performing below average, thereby achieving better protection for workers on the whole.

More generally, for those who deal with OSHA, be aware that significant transitions are occurring at Region 3 and the agency as a whole. In Region 3, Marie Cassady, who had held the positions of both Acting Regional Administrator and Deputy Regional Administrator, recently retired. Similarly, the Area Directors for Harrisburg and Wilkes Barre also recently retired. None of these positions have yet been filled. On a national basis, in addition to Region 3, the Regional Administrators for Region 2 and Region 9 have also recently retired and these positions remain vacant. Other Senior Executive Service positions that have recently opened up as a result of retirement or transfers include the Director of Compliance and Cooperative Programs and Director of Technical Support. All of this flux at OSHA suggests some uncertainty regarding direction and oversight within the agency.