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September 16, 2011

Employers with as few as 20 workers now face inspections under a new directive issued by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for its site-specific targeting program.

Under the old directive, OSHA set the site-specific targeting minimum at 40 employees. The change to 20 workers became effective Sept. 9, the date OSHA released program details. While the new program is called Site-Specific Targeting 2011 (SST-11), the inspections could continue through September 2012.

In a Sept. 13 statement to BNA, the agency said the new threshold is connected to the decision in 2009 to begin collecting injury and illness information from establishments with as few as 20 workers.

“OSHA reduced the qualifying number of employees from 40 to 20 or more in the OSHA Data Initiative to increase the range of establishments that the agency interacts with through enforcement through the Site-Specific Targeting 2011 as well as through outreach and consultation,” the response said.

The decision to pursue employers with fewer workers did not surprise Mary Brogan, a spokeswoman for the National Small Business Association. “It’s part of an ongoing trend,” Brogan said of regulations broadened beyond large employers. “It’s something we are always concerned about.”

The site-specific targeting program calls for inspectors to visit at least 3,700 establishments with substantially worse-than-average rates of illnesses and injuries recorded in OSHA Form 300 logs during 2009, the most recent year for which OSHA has reliable numbers. The 3,700 businesses include 3,000 in manufacturing, 400 in nonmanufacturing, and 300 nursing care facilities.

Exempted from the list are construction businesses, state and federal agencies other than the U.S. Postal Service, and businesses in the Voluntary Protection Program or Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

The previous year’s program targeted 4,100 establishments.

Of the 3,700 employers under the 2011 program, about 420 will have their records come under additional scrutiny by the Labor Department as part of a two-year study evaluating the “impact of inspections on injury and illness rates and overall compliance with OSHA standards and regulations.” Another 420 establishments will be examined the following year.

OSHA uses the site-specific targeting program as its main guide for determining which non-construction workplaces are selected for inspections not prompted by deaths, accidents, complaints, and other incidents, or by national emphasis programs, such as the ongoing inspections of primary metal manufacturers and grain silos.

“By focusing our inspection resources on employers in high-hazard industries who endanger their employees, we can prevent injuries and illnesses and save lives,” DOL Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels said in a Sept. 9 statement announcing the program.

OSHA looks at two measurements to determine whether establishments qualify for site–specific targeting—the Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rate, and the Days Away from Work Injury and Illness Case (DAFWII) rate. Both rates look at how often employees were not at their regular jobs.

The average DART rate in 2009 was 1.8 workers missing at least one day of work out of every 100 workers, down from 2.0 the year before. The average DAFWII rate for 2009 was 1.1 cases involving days away from work for every 100 workers. The DAFWII rate was unchanged from 2008.

According to the new inspection plan, the following rates qualify businesses for the inspection list:

• manufacturers with a DART rate of at least 7.0, or a DAFWII rate of 5.0;

• nonmanufacturers with a DART rate of at least 15.0, or a DAFWII rate of 14.0; and

• nursing care facilities with a DART rate of at least 16.0, or a DAFWII rate of 13.0. 09-16-2011. Bureau of National Affairs.

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