OSHA, State Plans Did Not Use Almost Half Of Allocated Recovery Act Funds, Audit Finds

The Occupational Safety & Health Reporter™ provides complete news coverage and documentation of federal and state occupational safety and health programs, standards, legislation, regulations, enforcement, and Review Commission decisions.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

 

An audit report on how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration handled the $13.6 million it was budgeted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 found that while OSHA met its promise to increase inspections, $6.4 million was never spent. The unspent dollars reverted back to the U.S. Treasury.

The stimulus act included money for large-scale construction projects governmentwide, including $31 billion to modernize public infrastructure for energy savings, $30 billion for highway construction, and $6 billion to weatherize homes (39 OSHR 131, 2/19/09).

The audit, dated July 16, from the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General and the accounting firm Harper, Rains, Knight & Company, P.A., reviewed OSHA's performance from 2009 through 2011.

States Turned Down Millions

Several factors led to the $6.4 million going unspent, the audit said. Most states with their own workplace safety programs turned down grants that required a 100 percent match from the state. Also, delays that were beyond OSHA's control in starting Recovery Act projects left money unallocated. In addition, money could not be obligated after Sept. 30, 2010, the report said.

Of the 27 states and territories with worker safety programs, only seven accepted Recovery Act funding from OSHA: California, $765,070; Michigan, $100,000; Minnesota, $166,945; New Jersey, $32,495; New Mexico, $50,000; Oregon, $185,979; and Tennessee, $300,000. New Jersey and Tennessee later returned most of the allocations.

OSHA spent $4.3 million on salaries and expenses for federal inspections of Recovery Act projects and claimed the money paid for 5,669 inspections, the auditors found. However, when auditors checked the records of 163 inspections on OSHA's Recovery Act list, in 21 percent of the cases they could not find proof that inspections were of Recovery Act sites.

In a June 28 letter to the inspector general, which is included with the audit report, OSHA administrator David Michaels said the agency used its “long-standing methods” for documenting inspections and that the agency complied with Recovery Act requirements.

Nonetheless, the agency will improve how it documents inspections funded by temporary programs, Michaels responded.

Beyond inspections, OSHA spent $1.6 million on contractors to collect injury and illness data from 20,000 construction firms, create guidance documents, produce a video about respiratory protection, create construction safety videos, and develop the cranes and derricks directive, the audit said. Nearly 90 percent of the money went to Eastern Research Group Inc., headquartered in Lexington, Mass.

 


The audit is available at http://www.oig.dol.gov/public/reports/oa/2013/18-13-004-10-105.pdf.