The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced last year that it would begin targeting employers with a history of workplace safety violations through a new initiative known as the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Under the SVEP, OSHA refocused its enforcement efforts on significant hazards and employers that have demonstrated indifference to their workplace safety obligations by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations, in the following situations:
- Where a fatality or catastrophic incident (3 or more workers injured) occurs
- Where industry operations and processes expose employees to the most severe occupational hazards and High-Emphasis hazards (i.e. fall hazards)
- Where employees are exposed to highly hazardous chemicals.
- Where there have been other egregious enforcement actions against the employer.
Employers deemed to be severe violators under the SVEP are subject to increased enforcement initiatives, which include:
- Mandatory follow-up inspections (even after cited violations have been corrected)
- Increased penalties and fines.
- Company-wide settlement agreements that may include implementing safety programs and abatement measures, hiring safety consultants, and enhanced reporting measures.
- Enforcement of OSHA final orders in federal court.
- Heightened employer communication and awareness of OSHA enforcement, including notification of site-specific violations to company headquarters, press releases about violations, and dissemination of violation information to employees.
One critical component of the SVEP is that targeted employers with multiple locations are subject to inspections at related locations and worksites if there is suspicion of a broad pattern of non-compliance.
The SVEP is the embodiment of OSHA’s belief that increased penalties and enforcement will serve to improve workplace safety through deterrence. As stated by Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for Labor at OSHA, the SVEP's "higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees."
Having only been initiated ten months ago, it is too early to determine if the SVEP will have the effect that OSHA intended: improved safety in the workplace. From this construction accident lawyer’s perspective though, it is a step in the right direction.