Programmed inspections are OSHA’s lowest enforcement priority, but these inspections outnumber unprogrammed inspections, so it is clear that programmed inspections are a significant part of OSHA’s enforcement strategy. It is OSHA policy that inspections conducted as programmed inspections be primarily in the “high hazard” sectors of employment.
There are two categories of programmed inspections: Special Emphasis Programs and Site-Specific Targeting.
Special Emphasis Programs (SEPs)
In order to respond to developing situations where the health and safety of workers may be compromised, or where negative trends in safety call for heightened scrutiny of certain industries, OSHA relies on its Special Emphasis Program tool.
When routine enforcement procedures are not going far enough to protect workers, OSHA can enact a Special Emphasis Program to target additional inspections and improve worker safety. For example, if there was a spike in illness, injury, or fatality rates in a specific industry anywhere in the country, OSHA might then create a Special Emphasis Program to lower risk or mitigate corresponding hazards.
OSHA uses Special Emphasis Programs to prioritize and target inspections and enforcement activity, and respond to changes in the laborscape that pose new threats to workers. Special Emphasis Programs are also created for the purpose of scheduling inspections where routine procedure does not provide direction to area administrators, or provide a frequency of inspection sufficient to address concerns with worker safety.
If your industry or workplace is subject of a Special Emphasis Program, you’ll likely know about it, because OSHA publicizes this designation, safety consultants promote the change, and word in the field travels fast. Special Emphasis inspections are scheduled with a frequency above the rate of other inspections because they have a higher priority than Site-Specific Targeting plan checks.
National Emphasis Programs
Currently, OSHA has 13 active National Emphasis Programs:
- Combustible Dust
- Federal Agencies
- Hazardous Machinery
- Hexavalent Chromium
- Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
- Primary Metal Industries
- Process Safety Management
- Trenching & Excavation
Here’s an example description of one active National Emphasis Program:
OSHA inspection history has shown that individuals employed in the Primary Metal Industries are exposed to serious safety and health hazards on a daily basis. Previous inspections of primary metal establishments have resulted in citations for overexposures to a wide variety of health hazards including chemical exposures in foundry operations as well as physical stressors such as noise and heat. This National Emphasis Program (NEP) is to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures in facilities under the Primary Metal Industries, such as iron foundries and establishments that manufacture nails, insulated wires and cables, steel piping, and copper and aluminum products. This NEP will also heighten health and safety awareness within the affected industries of the potential for worker exposure to harmful chemical and physical hazards so that employers may voluntarily take steps to correct hazards and comply with current safety and health regulations and practices.
Regional Emphasis Programs
OSHA’s federal standards are enforced in all U.S. states and territories, so OSHA has a national jurisdiction; while 27 states run separate occupational safety & health programs which must be approved by OSHA to ensure compliance with federal standards. The state plans must be at or above the level of federal standards, and federal OSHA retains oversight of each program.
For purposes of meaningful enforcement, OSHA has 10 regions covering all U.S. states and territories. Because certain high-risk industries and occupations are concentrated differently in each region, OSHA deploys Regional Emphasis Programs as needed, to target enforcement and address problems in worker safety that aren’t prevalent nationally, but reflect the hazards faced by workers participating in specific regional economic activity.
For example, OSHA’s Region VI includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Right now, there are 11 active Regional Emphasis Programs unique to Region VI:
- Upstream Oil and Gas Industry
- Marine Operations
- Demolition Activities
- Work Zone Safety and Health
- Cranes Used in Construction
- Safety & Health Hazards in the Manufacture of Fabricated Metal Products
- High Noise in Manufacturing Industries
- Fall Hazards in Non-Construction Industries
- Grain Handling Facilities
- Heat Illnesses
You’ll notice that the programs listed above reflect the economic activity of the region, with focus on the oil & gas industry, heat illness, marine operations, and grain handling facilities; working in America’s southwest means negotiating special high-risk work environments.
Here’s a description from Region VI of one active Regional Emphasis Program…
The purpose of this regional notice is to establish an enforcement initiative to reduce workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses in Marine Operation industries.
The specified target industries are:
Ship Building/Repairing and Boat Yards on state navigable waters – SIC 3731, NAICS 336611 and SIC 3732, NAICS 336612 respectively;
Marine Cargo Handling/Longshoring – SIC 4491, NAICS 488320;
Shipbreaking – SIC 5093, NAICS 423930*;
Marine Construction – SIC 1629, NAICS 237990 ;
Commercial Diving – SIC 7389, NAICS 561990*;
Off-Shore Oil and Gas Platforms – SIC 1381/1389, NAICS 213111/213112;
Other maritime places of employment, including “Uninspected” vessels operating in navigable state waters in Region VI.
This instruction applies to all worksites in the jurisdiction of the Baton Rouge Area Office, Houston North Area Office, Houston South Area Office, and Corpus Christi Area Office where Marine Operations take place. This directive will not apply to Marine Operations found to occur in other jurisdictions, with the exception of Marine Construction activities. Marine Construction activities will apply to all worksites in Federal OSHA jurisdiction.
Local Emphasis Programs
Again, there are approximately 140 Regional/ Local Emphasis Programs (REPs/LEPs). In each of OSHA’s 10 regions, there may be Local Emphasis Programs targeting issues unique to certain parts of each region. It is relatively common for each region to have some mix of Regional Emphasis Programs and Local Emphasis Programs concurrently active in each of the 10 regions, but there are exceptions.
For example, OSHA’s region IX, covering the states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and several U.S. territories in the Pacific, has 12 Local Emphasis Programs and zero Regional Emphasis Programs:
- Programmed Construction Inspections
- Warehousing Operations
- Programmed Maritime Inspections
- Inspections of Smelters
- Federal Agencies
- Combustible Dust
- Silica and Portland Cement Exposures
- Programmed Construction Inspections at Military Installations
- Hotels, Casinos and/or Casino Hotels
- Inspections of Longshoring Activity
- Automotive Lifts
Here’s a description from Region IX of one active Local Emphasis Program:
Hotels (NAICS Code 721110) Casinos (NAICS code 713210) and Casino Hotels (NAICS code 721120) are comprised of establishments that provide lodging and/or gambling amusement. These worksites are found in National Parks and Forests, on Military Bases, and in the Pacific Territories. These sites include relatively hazardous activities such as sheet metal shops, carpenter shops, vehicle maintenance shops, electrical shops, water treatment plants, power generation plants, landscaping operations, and housekeeping and laundry services. Most of these activities involve exposures to hazards that are among OSHA’s strategic emphasis areas, such as amputations, electrical, powered industrial trucks, and noise.
Nationally, the published 2010 injury and illness rates for Hotels, casinos, and casino hotels, are above the national averages for injuries or illnesses resulting in Days Away From Work, Restricted Work Activity, or Job Transfer for every 100 fulltime workers (known as the DART rate) and for the total case rate (TCR).
The purpose and intent of this instruction is to provide an inspection scheduling system to cover high-hazard activities within the context of current law and OSHA policy. Safety and health programmed inspections of hotels, casinos and casino hotels are to be scheduled using this instruction.