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What Every Employer Should Know about OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)

Dec 16, 2014 5:43:36 AM

As a company specializing in fall protection, we focus our efforts on ensuring employee safety and keeping companies in compliance with OSHA regulations.  Although you might think Diversified’s pre-engineered and engineered fall protection systems are our most valuable keys to worker safety and company compliance, we respectfully disagree.  Fall protection systems are important, but our approach calls for listening and educating before designing or installing a solution. This post serves as a basic primer on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (also known as SVERP).  By explaining this enforcement initiative using simple language, we will arm you with information needed to stay clear of OSHA’s SVEP crosshairs while protecting your workers and your company.

What Is the Severe Violator Enforcement Program?
OSHA instituted SVEP in 2010 to focus enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of employees through willful, repeated, or egregious violations of the OSH Act.  Employers are assigned to SVEP when OSHA discovers willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations under one or more of the following circumstances:

  • Fatality or catastrophe inspections with one or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices.
  • Non-fatality/catastrophe inspections with two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices that are high gravity violations related to High-Emphasis Hazards (e.g., fall protection).
  • Non-fatality/catastrophe inspections with three or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices that are high gravity violations related to the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical.
  • Egregious, per-instance citations (defined as intentional disregard or indifference to safety standards and requirements).

What SVEP Inclusion Would Mean For Your Company
In addition to substantial financial penalties, companies included in SVEP can expect a minimum of three years of heightened OSHA scrutiny  and additional reporting requirements.  Here is a sampling of what to expect:

  • OSHA will issue regional/national press releases announcing the company’s inclusion in SVEP and add the violating company’s name to a log kept on the OSHA website.
  • OSHA will perform follow-up inspections to assess citation abatement and to determine if the employer is committing similar violations. Follow-up inspections include both the work-site that generated the original investigation and related workplaces nationwide (e.g., subsidiaries, affiliates, parent company).
  • OSHA will require a list of current and future job sites and written description of specific protective measures utilized to demonstrate compliance.
  • Employers are required to hire a qualified safety and health consultant to develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program.
  • Employers are required to maintain and submit a Work-Related Injury/Illness log on a quarterly basis.
  • Employers are required to report any serious injury or illness requiring medical attention and to consent to an inspection.
  • Employer consent to entry of a court enforcement order under Section 11(b) of the Act.

As the list of enhanced enforcement items above suggests, employers want to stay as far from the Severe Violators Enforcement Program as possible.  The sanctions outlined above may appear severe, but they are harsh for a reason.  OSHA is sending a clear message to employers that show indifference to safety standards.  Simply put, you do not want to find your company on this list.

Criteria For Exiting OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program
For the sake of argument, let’s assume you lose your initial appeal, your company lands in SVEP, and three years pass—what happens next?  In order to exit the SVEP program, an employer must demonstrate they have:

  • Abated all SVEP–related hazards affirmed as violations
  • Paid all final penalties
  • Abided by and completed all settlement provisions
  • Not additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial facility or any related facilities

Employers failing to meet the above criteria remain on the SVEP log for an additional three years prior to re-evaluation.

Parting Thoughts
Some claim the penalties associated with SVEP are too harsh and that OSHA’s press releases and online log of violators are nothing more than PR stunts designed to publicly humiliate “good corporate citizens.” We disagree.  The Severe Violators Enforcement Program exists because a small number of companies choose to blatantly ignore OSHA standards.  If you are struggling with the concept of SVEP, ask yourself this question:  would you want a loved one working for a company that displays no regard for OSHA safety regulations?  To learn more about OSHA fall protection regulations, discuss a recent citation, or to schedule a hazard assessment, contact the safety experts at Diversified Fall Protection or download OSHA’s SVERP White Paper for more information.