Inspector General Faults OSHA Enforcement Emphasis Programs

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Sept. 30 — OSHA failed to determine whether its special emphasis programs actually improved long-term conditions for workers, a report released Sept. 30 by the Department of Labor’s inspector general concludes.

The inspector general’s review (No. 02-16-201-10-105) also faults the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for not targeting some industries with higher-than-average injury and illness rates while covering some industries with low rates.

OSHA’s program reviews typically reported statistics related to the “one-time correction of hazards,” the report says. The agency “did not demonstrate any long-term impact on safety and health conditions or hazard prevention in the targeted industry.”

For most emphasis programs, the report says, OSHA reviews focused on inspection statistics, such as the frequency of citations, to determine whether a program was effective. The OSHA reviews didn’t include follow-up visits to employers or look at industry-wide data.

As a result, OSHA lacked key information for determining whether its emphasis programs achieved their long-term goals, the report says.

OSHA officials told investigators reviews were primarily based on inspection statistics because the agency didn’t have the resources or data to conduct comprehensive evaluations.

Low-Rate Industries Targeted

The inspector general also criticized the selection of industries covered by emphasis programs.

Safety-related national emphasis programs generally targeted industries with above-average injury and illness rates as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report says. However, the industries included 31 with lower-than-average rates. Not covered by the programs were eight industries with significantly higher rates such as mobile home manufacturing and air transportation.

OSHA Responds

OSHA administrator David Michaels responded to the inspector general’s finding in a Sept. 20 letter included with the final report. Michaels wrote that a “substantial body of evidence” shows targeted OSHA inspections result in lower rates at inspected employers.

Michaels said using national data from the BLS to evaluate emphasis programs isn’t practical because the statistics bureau data lags several years behind the start of programs and don’t adequately track serious health hazards.

The report isn’t the first time the inspector general has criticized OSHA inspection programs. In 2012, the inspector general faulted the agency’s site-specific targeting program for excluding worksites with fewer than 20 employees and exempting some high-hazard industries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

The report is available at

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