Safety and OSHA News

Report shows how Obama’s OSHA has stepped up enforcement

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An analysis of OSHA enforcement during the first two years of the Obama administration shows how the agency has changed its enforcement tactics compared to the Bush years.

OMB Watch says “the leash has been taken off the OSHA inspectorate under the Obama administration.”

The numbers paint the picture:

  • In 2009, federal and state OSHA programs handed out more than 68,000 citations, a 167% increase from the previous year. In 2010, OSHA handed out almost 114,000 violations in just the first six months of the year.
  • In 2008, OSHA handed out 203 willful violations. That number rose to 1,166 in 2009 and is on track to reach nearly the same number in 2010.
  • OSHA conducted 6,000 more inspections in 2009 than it did in 2008. OSHA is on track to conduct 1,600 more inspections in 2010 than in 2009.

How is OSHA escalating its enforcement? Two ways.

OSHA’s budget increased 7.68% from 2009 to 2010, and the Obama administration has asked for another 2.5% increase for 2011.

But it’s not just money that’s responsible for the OSHA crackdown on companies. Support from the top has something to do with it, too.

After two workplace disasters that spent much of 2010 in the headlines — The Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners and the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers — President Obama signaled support for tougher safety enforcement.

After Upper Big Branch, Obama said “a failure first and foremost of management, a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes” allowed companies, such as Massey Energy, to repeatedly violate safety regulations without penalty.

In the aftermath of the BP spill, Obama said, “So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need … better enforcement.”

More than ever during the current administration, the phrase, “Don’t get on OSHA’s hit list, you’ll never get off it,” has taken on significant meaning for companies.

In April 2010, OSHA announced its Severe Violator Enforcement Program under which it has:

  • increased inspections at companies with patterns of safety negligence,
  • conducted mandatory follow-up inspections, and
  • inspected other workplaces under the same ownership as those where severe problems have been found.

When all this is put together, what is OMB Watch’s conclusion about OSHA enforcement under the Obama administration? “OSHA appears to be developing an enforcement regime that focuses on industries and workplaces where employees are at greater risk for injury and illness.”

What do you think about OSHA under the first two years of the Obama administration? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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Comments

  1. I am very incouraged to hear that work places are more apt to look at ways that they can be safer places to work.
    Your article suggests that President Bush tied the hands of OSHA, but did not say how. It appears to me that Safety New Alert is taking sides with the Democratic Party, and trying to demonize any other. While I am a registered Dem., I would rather have the news that I read be more nonpartizen. If this is your stand, then I will look elsewhere for my news.

  2. This site has increasingly taken the sides of the world order progressives who seek to demonize capitalism in favor of socialism. This is not by mistake but by design. You are either a victim or an oppressor in the minds of these people. People are taking sides and we now know the side this publication is taken. Too bad.

  3. Interesting how administration changes can affect agencies and how they enforce regulation. I do not see this article comparing presidents as good or bad, simply industry was informed to expect increases and the numbers support that message. Thank you for compiling this data.

  4. I suppose that’s good news for additional funds going into the general fund, but has actual safety increased compared to previous years? The general trend in workplace injuries had been declining for the previous four years thanks in large part to the the partnerships between business and governement (and don’t bother with the “people are lying on the OSHA logs” argument, there isn’t now and hasn’t ever been any proof of that, it’s a red herring thrown out by Barab and his ilk). Working together to increase safety instead of alienating well meaning but under informed businesses was working. The bad guys are bad guys, they will always be there. I say go get them and fine them to death, but you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Now all that happends is you have EVERY business running scared of OSHA, instead of calling and asking for help.

  5. Government “Enforcement” does little other than drive up costs. We the consumer will pay dearly for Obama’s stepped up enforcement. I work in the industry where the stepped up enforcement has been the greatest (the mining industry) which by the way is governed by MSHA not OSHA, and also the EPA, OSM, US Fish and Wildlife, etc, etc. It is definitely true, the administration has stepped up enforcement, and we will be seeing the costs in our electric bills in the very near future, the question is, to what benefit?

  6. I agree with the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Companies that have repeat willfull violations should recieve 2 to 3 inspection per year and leave us small guys that have no history of deaths or serious injuries alone. My question though is, with all the additional citations OSHA has written, what are they doing with the additional revenue they are generating? Why do they need an increase in their budget for 2011?

  7. This is a tainted article and I have to agree with David’s response. It is poor work to make generic statements without providing evidence supporting it. Also, while Obama did mention oversight, this article leaves out the portion that creates a hostile relationship between OSHA and businesses…more fines. Truly, Obama is more interested in using OSHA as a political tool to gather support from unions as well as a means of revenue for his political agenda.

  8. We don’t fix safety problems because an OSHA inspector may stop by. We do it because its the right thing to do. I have seen both industry and osha personnel miss obvious violations – Why? Simply because we incorrectly assume that they know what they are looking for and should be doing. Perhaps more education for industries with incentives to participate in training / education would serve both industry, the employees, and OSHA’s expectations better. Right now, we are fining companies without the benefit of really educating them to prevent reoccurance. There is no partnership nor collaboration with industry. They just don’t get it…. Right now, its the shock and awe form of enforcement, which is not sustainable for a real and marked change.

  9. OSHA fines collected by the federal government go into the general fund. There’s no guarantee that OSHA gets the money. The same is true for EPA fines.

  10. Yes, each company should do things safely because it is the right thing to do. Many do not and their workers pay for it. This should not be a political issue. The Upper Big Branch Mine and BP had a history of violations and should be looked at more closely under the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. For Chuck, in answer to your statement “to what benefit”, I’m sure the families of the employees that lost their lives would have appreciated it if the company had followed the safety rules. I’m also sure that the thousands of businesses affected by the BP oil spill that have lost business or had to shut down during that event would have preferred BP had followed it’s safety rules. Since they did not follow them it affected more than the company itself, that is why regulations need to be enforced. The benefit is that you have no idea how many lives have been saved and disasters have been averted because regulations are enforced. Yes, a balance needs to be maintained, little to no regulation causes disasters and death, too much regulation restricts the ability of businesses to thrive. Government and business leaders need to work on finding that balance instead of swinging wildly back and forth complaining because they don’t get their way. Unfortunately, I haven’t see any clear thinkers making an effort for at least a decade.

  11. Over a year ago, in this forum, I predicted that this administration will use OSHA and EPA fines as a way to increase monies in the General Fund. It is yet another in a long line of hidden taxes for which this administration is well-known. The additional inspectors are one more area of exponentially-expanding government.

    In our business – oil and gas – the numbers have become truly astounding. Not just the fines, but the lost productivity and costs associated with preparing endless studies, audits, redundant reports, and so on. The costs are truly confiscatory taxes.

  12. First off, with exception of two comments that were left, you all sound like Upper Management with an exceedingly amount of free time. A small private company that I work for had in their 18 years of business 4 OSHA visits. In the past 2 1/2 years we have had 5! Is it a trend? Is it because of political groups trying to flex their “muscle”? OR, get this, THEY ARE STARTING TO DO THEIR JOBS! Or, at least starting to take it more serious. See, I love state and federally funded jobs because it is a riot to watch these people running around like a chicken with it’s head cut-off because somebody tightened the leash on them. You can have tons of training; sure, but never confuse real-world situations with what is written down in doctrine. Half of the regulations are antiquated and idiotic. Now I am sure you are all thinking, “Who the heck is this bonehead?”. I’m the bonehead who retired from the Army; so I know how federal jobs work. I’m the bonhead who on his second day as a safety manager was hit with an OSHA inspection; to which the complaint was laughed at by the inspector. Finally, and lastly, I am the bonehead that is Upper Management with, I guess, a little bit of extra time to write this!

  13. Now that we are having increased inspections maybe we should fine OSHA inspectors if they miss something

  14. I had an inspection a year ago by OSHA. We are a fabrication shop with a lot of moving parts. The inspector was a nice gentleman and did a very thorough job and found a couple of minor things that we fixed immediately. He praised us on our safety programs and significant reduction of injuries and the fact we did not have a lost time in over a year. At the closing meeting he stated that he was suppose to still cite us for something because no place is perfect according to OSHA administration. He didn’t do it to us, but my concern is that OSHA upper administration is more about trying to get someone than they are about making sure that companies are doing the best job possible to keep people safe. Enforcement is important but blanket statements that you better come back with a citation at each facility you visit is WRONG! If it is warranted that is one thing but to do it because you have been ordered is not right.

  15. While the increase in inspections and fines could mean bad news for under performing safety programs, it reinforces the need for competent Safety Professionals to manage the risk.

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