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A new report by the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General called for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to expand the types of employers inspected by the site-specific targeting program.
The inspector general recommended expanding the targeting program to include employers with 11 to 19 workers--currently the program is limited to those with at least 20 workers--adding some exempted industry groups to the program, and encouraging states to increase their efforts.
The report, OSHA's Site Specific Targeting Program Has Limitations on Targeting and Inspecting High-Risk Worksites, was released Sept. 28 by the inspector general's office.
The site-specific targeting program is carried out annually by OSHA with the intent of contacting and inspecting businesses with the highest “days away from work, restricted or transferred” rates--DART rates for short. OSHA determines which companies go on the list by analyzing OSHA Form 300 logs submitted by employers in industries that historically have high injury and illness rates.
Exempted from the program are construction contractors, employers in industries that are not considered to be hazardous, and worksites with fewer than 20 workers.
During the winter of each year, OSHA mails letters to more than 14,800 establishments under federal jurisdiction advising them that they could be inspected as part of the targeting program, and OSHA may inspect up to 2,500 of the worksites. Some states have similar programs.
OIG made three recommendations. It said OSHA should:
• include the highest-risk worksites listed in its annual OSHA Data Initiative (ODI) survey,
• prioritize and complete inspections of the highest-risk worksites to ensure effective and efficient use of the program, and
• complete the agency's ongoing evaluation of the targeting program, and start a monitoring effort to evaluate the program's efficiency on a continual basis.
The findings were based on an analysis of the targeting program's efforts from August 2010 through September 2011. During that time, 13,827 establishments were identified for federal or state inspections, and 2,146 (16 percent) were inspected, the report said.
However, the study noted that 26 percent of all worksites with injury and illness rates high enough to have been included in the program were exempted because they had fewer than 20 workers, were in states that did not participate in the program, or were in industry groups that were not surveyed by the ODI “based on program decisions using outdated information” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The report also found that worksites targeted by federal OSHA were almost four times more likely to be inspected than worksites covered by state agencies. Among the establishments on the program's target list, federal inspectors visited 21 percent of the worksites while state inspectors went to 6 percent of establishments.
In a five-page response, David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, challenged many of OIG's conclusions, saying the recommendations would require policy changes that OSHA cannot control or could weaken other OSHA enforcements efforts.
“[W]hile we appreciate the comprehensive scope of your audit, the evaluation focuses heavily on numerous policy issues outside the Agency's authority or jurisdictional control. … In fact, several audit recommendations support the need for major policy changes with regulatory implications and go well beyond internal operational changes to improve program effectiveness,” Michaels said in his Sept. 28 response included with the report.
Expanding inspections to include businesses with 11 to 19 workers could result in large employers that are more likely to have violations not being inspected, he said, adding that many employers not inspected as part of the targeting program are inspected under OSHA emphasis programs.
OSHA is looking at requiring more industries to report injury rates, Michaels said. In June 2010, OSHA proposed a rule change to add 52 industry groups to the list of those establishments that must report their injury and illness rates.
OSHA took comments through October 2011 and has taken no action on the rulemaking since (41 OSHR 829, 9/29/11).
As for evaluating the effectiveness of the targeting program, OSHA and the Labor Department are in the midst of a study examining how targeting program letters and inspections impact employers' injury and illness rates (42 OSHR 7, 1/5/12).
As for increasing state involvement, Michaels pointed out that OSHA cannot require states to participate, and that states should be allowed to use strategies that fit their needs.
The OIG report and OSHA response are available at http://www.oig.dol.gov/public/reports/oa/2012/02-12-202-10-105.pdf.
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