A new report says OSHA lacks sufficient metrics to determine how well it’s carrying out its mission of protecting the safety and health of workers.
The report, Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing the U.S. Department of Labor from the DOL’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), says OSHA and MSHA face “challenges in determining how to best use limited resources to help ensure the safety and health of workers, particularly in high risk industries such as construction, forestry, fishing, agriculture, and mining.”
The OIG says its audits have found OSHA “lacks outcome-based data needed to determine the effectiveness of its programs.” OSHA’s metrics focus on activities (ex., inspections) rather than outcomes, according to the OIG:
“While OSHA cites several studies that have shown a positive impact from OSHA inspections, the agency needs to continue its efforts to develop metrics that reflect the impact of its enforcement efforts on improving workplace safety and health.”
A study scheduled to be completed by the end of calendar year 2015 could hold one key. The DOL is about to wrap up a multi-year study of OSHA’s Site Specific Targeting program.
The SST targets companies with a history of a higher than average number of injuries and illnesses. It’s OSHA’s chief method of choosing where to conduct programmed inspections.
OSHA says it’s considering changes to the way it does business to better use its limited resources.
One change by OSHA at the start of this calendar year has already caused an evolution in its inspection choices.
As of Jan. 1, 2015, companies have to report in-patient hospitalizations of one or more workers, amputations and physical loss of an eye within 24 hours to OSHA. Previously, companies only needed to report when there were three or more hospitalizations. There were no requirements for amputations or physical loss of an eye. Companies must also continue to report fatalities to OSHA within eight hours.
OSHA has averaged between 200 and 250 of these reports a week. When there are fatalities, OSHA will always perform an inspection. Amputations are very likely to also trigger a visit. For hospitalizations, it will depend on the circumstances.
If OSHA decides not to send an inspector, it will follow up with the company via phone call. If it doesn’t like something it hears on the phone call or if follow-up documentation is deemed not to be sufficient, expect an inspection.
OSHA has also recently started its Enforcement Weighting Initiative which gives its area offices “credit” for conducting inspections that require more time and resources, such as those involving ergonomic injuries, chemical exposures, workplace violence and process safety management.
This would seem to speak to what the OIG report calls for. Previously, OSHA would track the number of inspections performed. (Nationwide, that number had been hovering just above 40,000 per year.)
Now, OSHA appears to be searching for higher gravity inspections where the results could have more of an impact.