By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its 2014 Budget Justification this week, indicating implementation of its new “weighted inspection system” to target the most serious hazards such as those found in refineries, trenching, shipbreaking, falls, chemical plants and industries that use crystalline silica, lead, and hexavalent chromium.

The Agency plans to adjust its enforcement approach by developing a system to rate inspections on complexity. By rating the complexity of an inspection, OSHA compliance officers and Area Offices will be focusing time and effort on “more complex inspections,” such as Process Safety Management (PSM) facilities and health inspections such as bloodborne pathogen, respiratory protection, and other hazards. OSHA believes that this “ultimately will have a greater impact on workplace safety and health.”

“As a compliance officer is deployed to conduct a PSM inspection, ergonomics inspection, or industrial hygiene inspection, the Agency will see a more effective application of its limited resources.”

The 2014 Justification plan actually increases the number of health and complex PSM and other such inspections by nearly 500. For instance, in FY 2012, OSHA conducted 40,961 safety and health inspections, of which 33,580 were safety inspections and 7,381 were health inspections. For FY 2014 it plans for 39,250 inspections — 31,400 safety inspections, and 7,850 health inspections.

Importantly, employers that have facilities in these target areas should expect to see enhanced OSHA inspection activities. Plan accordingly by making sure that your safety and health programs, policies, and procedures are up-to-date and are being implemented properly.