WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established criteria for removing employers, including wood products manufacturers, from its controversial Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).

OSHA said th intent of the SVEP, which went into effect June 18, 2010,  is for the agency to focus its limited resources on "employers that demonstrate difference to their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act with willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations."

Among other things, companies targeted in the SVEP face higher fines. "Willful" safety violations, for example, previously capped at $70,000 per violation climb to $250,000 under the SVEP.

In June 2011, OSHA placed Phenix Lumber Co.of Phenix City, AL, on its SVEP list after proposing more than $1.9 million ini fine related to "egregious" safety violations, including exposing workers to amputation and fall hazards. The new round of citations came on top of 77 other safety and health citations OSHA said Phenix Lumber had racked up since 2007. OSHA had cited Phenix Lumber in September 2010 after an employee was killed in a forklift accident and also noted that two employees had suffered amputations in separate accidents at the plant.

Under the new criteria published by OSHA on August 16, companies on the SVEP list may be considered for removal by an OSHA regional administrator after a period of three years from the date of the final disposition of the SVEP inspection citation items including: failure to contest, settlement agreement, Review Commission final order, or court of appeals decision.

In addition, to be removed from the SVEP list, all affirmed violations must have been abated, all final penalties must have been paid, the employer must show he has abided by and completed all settlement provisions, and the employer must not have received any additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or at any related establishments.

    Employers that fail to meet these terms will remain in the program for three more years after which they will be reevaluated for removal.

    Additional information is available at http://s.dol.gov/VD.

    OSHA Raises the Stakes for Safety Violations 7-18-10

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