The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continued to exceed enforcement goals during fiscal year (FY) 2008 according to data released on December 19. The agency's emphasis on identifying and eliminating serious safety and health hazards has resulted in an unprecedented 80 percent of all violations issued being in the most serious categories.
Nationwide, OSHA logged 87,687 violations of its standards and regulations for worker safety and health, with 67,052 of these violations cited as "serious." The proportion of those violations classified as endangering employees is at the highest level ever, and this administration has made more criminal referrals for wrongdoing under the Occupational Safety and Health Act than any previous one, including 12 in FY 2008 alone. Additionally, in FY 2008, OSHA conducted almost 39,000 worksite inspections, surpassing the agency's goal for the year by 2.4 percent. On average, 4,000 more workplace inspections were completed each year (38,515) between FY 2001-2008 as compared to the prior 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, " said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas M. Stohler. "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."
Innovative approaches such as the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP), Site Specific Targeting and National Emphasis Programs (NEP) are methods OSHA uses to target the most hazardous workplaces and employers with high injury and illness rates. EEP's purpose is to pursue employers with a history of serious, willful and/or repeat violations with OSHA. During the program's first five years (FY 2004 to 2008), OSHA identified 2,471 inspections that qualified for the EEP. Site-Specific Targeting allows OSHA to focus its enforcement efforts on workplaces with the highest rated injuries and illnesses. In FY 2008, 3,800 worksites were targeted for unannounced comprehensive safety inspections. The NEPs 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, OSHA conducted 8,730 inspections related to NEPs.