OSHA is putting the oil and gas industry under increased scrutiny as it issued a notice announcing the industry will be subject to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Thomas Galassi, Director of OSHA enforcement programs, said the decision was based on the industry’s “significant worker fatality rate” which is “5 to 8 times greater than the national average for all US industries” over the last 20 years. Because of this, he believes a change in SVEP policy is warranted.
Specifically targeted are upstream oil and gas operations that extract oil and gas, drill wells, or provide support for oil and gas operations. In any non-fatal inspection of an upstream oil and gas operation, where OSHA finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices or some combination thereof, the company will be entered into the serious violator program.
Once entered into the program, OSHA can inspect all other sites owned and operated by the employer. The employer must also establish a safety program and should expect frequent visits from OSHA inspectors. The employer can expect to remain in the SVEP program for a minimum of three years until a clean record has been maintained, upon which time, the company can petition OSHA for removal from the program if all penalties have been paid and all provisions been completed as required, with no new violations incurred at any of its operations.
OSHA believes this industry to be amongst the most dangerous in the US with a fatality rate of 17.7 per 100,000 workers in 2012 during the North Dakota oil boom, which warranted additional OSHA scrutiny. Oil and gas companies should be especially mindful of their safety management systems in light of OSHA’s new policy.
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by Stacey Wagner