Safety and OSHA News

Enforcement or assistance? Maybe OSHA can still do both

No secret: OSHA administrator David Michaels would rather focus more on enforcement than employer assistance. But surprisingly, recent stats show the agency is still managing to do both.

At the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) 2011 conference in Chicago last week, OSHA officials presented statistics for the 2011 fiscal year so far, from Oct. 1 2010 to May 31, 2011.

On the enforcement side:

  • OSHA has already conducted 25,121 inspections this fiscal year and is on track to bring that total to 41,000 by the end of September.
  • The agency has registered 132 cases it classifies as “significant” so far this fiscal year. A significant case is one in which fines total more than $100,000. At the current rate, OSHA could have 200 of these cases before the end of the year. In 2010 it had only 164.
  • The average cost of a serious citation is up: In 2009 it was $1,000. So far this fiscal year the average is $2,000. OSHA wants to raise that average to $3,500. To do so, it’s increased the minimum fine for a serious violation from $100 to $500. The maximum, $7,000, can only be changed by an act of Congress.

On the employer assistance side:

  • The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has 2,439 active participants. And here’s one reason why OSHA wants to keep this program going: The agency is using participants’ success stories to help develop a proposal to require companies to formulate their own injury and illness prevention programs.
  • In the fiscal year 2010, 31,281 site visits were made through OSHA’s on-site consultation program. Independent consultants from colleges or state agencies work with small businesses to improve their safety and health programs.
  • 324 groups have joined the OSHA Alliance Program. Unions, professional associations (such as ASSE) and community groups work with OSHA to develop employer assistance tools.
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  1. indian queen says:

    Based on experience working with MSHA, OSHA and OSHA compliance, the financial cut should be made in the compliance side. Although OSHA has some well experienced and caring OSHA compliance officers; OSHA is also hiring many lower entry and inexperienced two year junior college (Associates program) graduates and/or lower level inexperienced employees who have no work background (other than opening an OSHA manual) and then these employees go into businesses, acting like policemen, and basically citing companies for issues, the OSHA employees have no background or know the business they are expecting. The money should be focused on the consultation side of the house. The OSHCON programs have very well experienced personnel who work for half of the money that OSHA compliance officers or employees are paid because the OSHCON employees are not federal employees but rather are paid through grants. As such, the consultation group employees are paid very little and they actually do a great job because they are retired military or retired employees with vast experience and actually worked in the fields or industries they are consulting with. I have seen both sides of the house and worked in both areas. THE OSHCON group, especially the Texas ones are great people and they care about the businesses they help.

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