According to recently released data, OSHA conducted almost 39,000 work site inspections in FY 2008, surpassing the agency's goal for the year by 2.4 percent. The agency logged 87,687 violations of its standards and regulations for workplace safety and health in FY 2008 -- 67,052 of these violations were cited as "serious." Officials said the proportion of those violations classified as endangering employees was at the highest level ever.
Despite criticism from workplace safety advocates, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas M. Stohler said the administration has made more criminal referrals for wrongdoing under the Occupational Safety and Health Act than ever before. For example, Stohler said that on average, 4,000 more workplace inspections were completed each year (38,515) between FY 2001-08 as compared to the previous administration FY 1993-2000 (34,508).
"Workplace inspections and issuing citations are a critical part of OSHA's balanced approach to improving workplace safety, but the real test of success is saving lives and preventing injuries," Stohler said. "According to preliminary numbers for 2007, the workplace fatality rate has declined 14 percent since 2001, and since 2002, the workplace injury and illness rate has dropped 21 percent -- with both at all-time lows. This year's inspection numbers show that the strategic approach used by OSHA -- targeting highest hazard workplaces for aggressive enforcement while also using education, training, and cooperative programs to improve overall compliance -- can help achieve significant reductions in workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities."
OSHA uses innovative approaches such as the Enhanced Enforcement Program, Site Specific Targeting, and National Emphasis Program to target the most hazardous workplaces and employers with high injury and illness rates. The purpose of the Enhanced Enforcement Program is to pursue employers with a history of serious, willful and/or repeat violations. During the program's first five years (FY 2004 to 2008), Stohler said OSHA identified 2,471 inspections that qualified for the program. According to the agency, Site Specific Targeting allows OSHA to focus its enforcement efforts on workplaces with the highest rated injuries and illnesses. In FY 2008, 3,800 work sites were targeted for unannounced comprehensive safety inspections.
The NEPs, Stohler said, focus on major health and/or safety hazards of recognized national significance. They also guide OSHA field offices to plan programs and conduct inspections consistently across the nation. Areas of emphasis include combustible dust, lead, process safety management, diacetyl, and trenching. During FY 2008, Stohler said OSHA conducted 8,730 inspections related to an NEP.
January 26, 2009
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