A Regulatory Overview of OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)

OSHA – Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) in 2010 to:

  • Concentrate OSHA resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) obligations by willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations; and
  • Replace OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP).

On Feb. 11, 2015, OSHA announced that the SVEP has been expanded to include upstream oil and gas hazards as “high-emphasis hazards.”

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SVEP Enforcement Instruction

The SVEP is intended to focus OSHA’s enforcement efforts on significant hazards and violations that endanger employees. The program targets fall hazards, amputation dangers, combustible dust, exposure to silica, trenching/excavations and shipbuilding hazards. The SVEP applies to all employers, regardless of size.

Under the SVEP, OSHA will concentrate inspection resources on employers who have demonstrated recalcitrance or indifference to their OSH Act obligations by committing willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances:

  1. A fatality or catastrophe situation;
  2. In industry operations or processes that expose employees to the most severe occupational hazards and those identified as “high-emphasis” hazards;
  3. Exposing employees to hazards related to the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical; or
  4. All egregious enforcement actions.

SVEP procedures are intended to increase attention on the correction of hazards found in these workplaces, including mandatory OSHA follow-up inspections and, where appropriate, in other nationwide worksites of the same employer where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present. SVEP procedures include a more intense examination of an employer's practices for systemic problems that would trigger additional mandatory inspections.

For a complete copy of OSHA SVEP enforcement instructions, see: http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.html

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Revised Penalty Policies

Since the implementation of the SVEP, OSHA has also reviewed its penalty policy and has updated the penalty section of its Field Operations Manual (FOM). In preparation, OSHA assembled a work group to evaluate its penalty policies and found that previously assessed penalties are too low to have an adequate deterrent effect. For this reason, based on the group's findings and recommendations, OSHA made several administrative changes to the penalty calculation system outlined in the FOM. The adjustments take into account the:

  • Appropriateness of the penalty with respect to the employer’s size;
  • Gravity of the violation;
  • Good faith of the employer; and
  • History of previous violations.

According to OSHA, the penalty changes increase the overall dollar amount of most penalties. The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is limited by law to only $7,000, and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is limited to $70,000. Though the administrative changes to penalties cannot exceed the current maximum penalties prescribed by law, the average penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000 to an average of $3,000 to $4,000.

OSHA plans to focus on outreach in preparation for implementing its new administrative penalty policy. For more information on this penalty policy, visit www.osha.gov.

Creating an effective safety program for your organization based on OSHA’s Four-point Program is a great first step in reducing your organization’s workers’ compensation costs. This program, coupled with ongoing safety initiatives and program benchmarking, can mean thousands of dollars saved in premiums, increased productivity and reduced claims costs.

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Regular safety meetings are important, but you also have to inspect what you expect. Every employee should know their role with safety and OSHA standards!

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