State of Indiana’s Occupational Health and Safety

State of Indiana’s Occupational Health and Safety

Timothy E. Maley, Deputy Commissioner, Indiana Department of Labor

One might say that OSHA is in a transition phase. The past Assistant Secretary and Head of Federal OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, has moved on as the administration changed. The new nominee to head OSHA, Scott Mugno, has not been confirmed by the senate, leaving that important leadership position open for about the last two years.

The exact direction of the new OSHA administration is a bit unclear, but one thing is certain – the “punish and publish” theme of the previous administration is ending and a new message to balance enforcement with increased consultation and safety education is emerging.

This new message blends nicely with how IOSHA (Indiana’s state-run OSHA program) has approached enforcement of occupational health and safety for some time. The state of Indiana presently enjoys historic low injury and illness rates. This rate has decreased from a high of 11.0 in 1992 to 3.5 in 2016, representing a 69% decrease in injury/illness rate during this time period. As a result, it has just been announced that the worker’s compensation insurance rates for Indiana will decrease for by 7.6% for 2019.

IOSHA continues to leverage its limited resources to improve both enforcement and consultation programs. For example, IOSHA has improved its response time for opening an investigation from a high of 44 days in 2013 to seven days in 2017. This year, IOSHA converted to using a digital filing system for its enforcement cases over its former paper system. This saves time and resources. The organization has also significantly decreased the time it takes to complete an investigation and, for the first time in many years, will surpass its annual inspection target for Federal Year 2018.

IOSHA’s voluntary protection program “VPP” is one of the best programs in the nation presently. There are 90 certified sites and the goal is to have 100 sites in 2019. Despite competing with much larger state programs, Indiana ranks seventh nationally for total number of VPP sites and shares the lead in its OSHA region.

IOSHA maintains many partnerships and alliances, allowing for the communication of regulatory status updates and general safety education. In addition to the partnerships with these associations, IOSHA accepts site-specific construction partnerships. Most notable was a $500 million-dollar project at the University of Notre Dame named the “Campus Crossroads Project.” Barton Malow, the general contractor, the university, and Indiana OSHA teamed up resulting in the very safe completion of three new academic buildings and renovation of the football stadium.

The recent regulatory environment has created some confusion among Indiana employers. The following are some of the more recent regulations and the status of enforcement in Indiana.

Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses – Federal OSHA developed a database where employers would be required to electronically submit their 300A tracking forms. Federal OSHA is presently only accepting 300A for all employers regardless of size. Pay attention to the “anti-retaliation clause” in this regulation that prohibits employers from discouraging employees from reporting injury and illness in the areas of post-accident drug testing, incentive programs, and disciplinary action.

Final Rule for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica – This regulation essentially reduces the permissible exposure level “PEL” for silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter with an action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Pay close attention to the list of common tasks that generate silica dust. If you follow the prescribed controls for that task, the employer will not be subject to the PEL.

Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Operator Certification Extension – OSHA has delayed its deadline for employers to ensure that crane operators are certified by one year. OSHA is also extending its employer duty to ensure that crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely for the same one-year period.

Indiana stands ready to assist employers to learn and comply with any OSHA regulations. If you have questions about these regulatory changes or needs additional assistance, please contact the Indiana Department of Labor at insafe@dol.in.gov or 317-232-2688.

Category Features, Last Word