Last week, Washington Legal Foundation published a Legal Backgrounder regarding OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”) authored by Eric J. Conn, Head of Epstein Becker & Green’s national OSHA Practice Group. The Legal Backgrounder expands on a series of posts here on the OSHA Law Update blog regarding OSHA’s controversial Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The article focuses on a White Paper issued by OSHA this Spring, in which OSHA analyzes the first 18 months of its new, controversial enforcement program. The White Paper concludes that the SVEP is “off to a strong start” and is “already meeting certain key goals,” including:
- Identifying recalcitrant employers whose violations of the OSH Act “demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees.”
- Effectively guiding OSHA’s enforcement resources toward those employers by “targeting high-emphasis hazards, facilitating inspections across multiple worksites, and by providing Regional and State Plan offices with a nationwide referral procedure.”
- Demonstrating its effectiveness by creating a “significant increase in follow-up inspections and enhanced settlements.”
Despite OSHA’s claims, careful scrutiny of the data available regarding the SVEP casts doubt on the Program’s effectiveness and reveals several glaring problems with how the SVEP is being administered. Most notably, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program:
- Disproportionately targets small employers with enforcement rather than compliance assistance;
- Provokes more than four times as many legal challenges to the underlying citations as compared to the average OSHA enforcement action;
- Encounters significant obstacles in the execution of follow-up inspections of SVEP-qualified employers; and
- Finds virtually no systemic safety issues when follow-up and related facility inspections are conducted (i.e., the Program is not capturing recalcitrant employers)
Check out the full Legal Backgrounder regarding OSHA’s SVEP here.