OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Expanded to Cases with No Death or Injuries

Criteria for placement in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program has been expanded to include violations of all hazards and OSHA safety standards. 

Focused on repeat offenders in all industries, previously, an employer could be in the program for failing to meet a limited number of standards. The changes made by the U.S. Department of Labor will broaden the program’s scope with the possibility that additional industries will fall within its parameters.

“The Severe Violator Enforcement Program empowers OSHA to sharpen its focus on employers who – even after receiving citations for exposing workers to hazardous conditions and serious dangers – fail to mitigate these hazards,” said Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor. “Today’s 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.”

Since 2010, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program has focused on enforcement and inspection resources on employers who either willfully or repeatedly violate federal health and safety laws or demonstrate a refusal to correct previous violations. In addition to being included on a public list of the nation’s severe violators, employers are subject to followup inspections.

“It is critical that OSHA uses all the tools it has available to protect workers when an employer repeatedly disregards their health and safety,” Parker states in a blog about the new criteria. 

The updated criteria include the following:

  • The expanded program criteria now include all hazards and OSHA standards. The old criteria were limited to cases involving fatalities, three or more hospitalizations, high-emphasis hazards, the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical (process safety management), and enforcement actions classified as egregious.
  • Employers will be placed in the program if OSHA finds at least two willful or repeated violations or issues failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of high-gravity serious violations. Under the old criteria, the focus was on cases of willful or repeated serious violation or a hazard the employer failed to abate that was directly related to either an employee death or an incident that caused three or more hospitalizations. 
  • Followup or referral inspections must be conducted within one year, but not longer than two years, after the final order. Previously, there was no required time frame in which OSHA would conduct a followup inspection after the final order.
  • The potential for removal from the program begins three years after the date of verification that all SVEP-related hazards have been abated, instead of when final order is issued. A final order and meeting other conditions are still required for removal from SVEP, but the clock for potential removal starts when the employer fixes the hazard instead of at the end of a highly variable administrative process.
  •  Employers can reduce the amount of time in SVEP to two years if they consent to an enhanced settlement agreement that involves implementing a safety and health management system. The system must include the seven basic elements outlined in OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs. Previously, employers were only eligible for removal from SVEP after three years. These last two changes incentivize employers to fix problems quickly and develop lasting solutions to change their health and safety culture.

“It is the goal of this administration to maximize all tools available to us to ensure employers comply with their legal obligation to provide safe and healthful workplaces,” Parker wrote in his blog. “These changes to SVEP will hold a microscope to those employers who continue to expose workers to very serious dangers and help ensure America’s workers come home safe at the end of every shift.”