Workplace Safety and Health:

OSHA Should Strengthen the Management of Its Consultation Program

GAO-02-60: Published: Oct 12, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 2001.

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Several factors affect employers' decisions to participate in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) consultation program. GAO surveyed industry associations, employee representatives, and participating employers and found that the two main incentives for program participation are (1) making the employer's workplace safer and reducing worker injury and illness by promoting workplace safety and health and (2) preparing the employer's workplace for an OSHA inspection. The measurement system OSHA uses lacks enough data to separate the program outcomes from the outcomes of OSHA's other efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA's process for allocating funds to the state consultation programs plays no role in encouraging participating states to achieve agency goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 7, 2003, OSHA issued new guidance for the regional offices for monitoring OSHA grants and cooperative agreements. This guidance, entitled "Financial and Administrative Monitoring of OSHA Grants and Cooperative Agreements," includes a section on audit requirements for state governments, local governments, and non-profit organizations.

    Recommendation: To help ensure better oversight of state expenditures of consultation funds, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to provide specific guidance to the regional offices regarding the monitoring of state-level expenditures of Consultation Program funds that includes criteria or situations under which regional offices should review program spending or conduct audits of expenditures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSHA established a Funding Formula Task Group with state and regional consultation partners to factor performance criteria into OSHA's funding formula. In November 2002, the task group's recommendations to use four performance criteria were presented to the OSHCON Board/Federal Steering Committee and subsequently approved by the Assistant Secretary. OSHA used the new funding formula to distribute fiscal year 2003 program funds, which took place in February 2003. OSHA plans to continue to look for ways to refine the performance criteria for the Consultation Program.

    Recommendation: To help OSHA ensure that the funding allocation process encourages state consultation programs to work toward agency goals, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, in cooperation with state partners, to develop a plan and timetable for factoring incentives into the allocation process. In so doing, OSHA may want to (1) develop performance goals for inclusion in the allocation formula or (2) set aside up to 20 percent of consultation funds for distribution by the Secretary of Labor in accordance with separate criteria that reward good performance or address specific state program needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, OSHA established a Measurement Task Group with its state and regional consultation partners to review existing reporting requirements and develop new indicators to better reflect the On-site Consultation Program. As a result of the work of the task group, OSHA has taken the following steps. First, OSHA has revised its Federal and Integrated Cooperative Agreements with States to include the submission of the Consultation Annual Project Plan (CAPP). The CAPP is a detailed narrative description of the Consultation Project's planned activities and its support of the Federal strategic management plan or State annual performance plan. The CAPP has several components that provide the indicators against which Consultation Project performance will be measured. Required components of the CAPP include: a) operational description by strategy, activities and outcomes, b) projected program activities, and c) annual training plan. Second, Consultation Projects are now required to report milestones with regard to program performance in the Consultation Annual Project Report (CAPR), which provides a summary and analysis of Project progress. The CAPR is submitted to the regions and reviewed by the national office. Furthermore, the regions now prepare and submit a Regional Annual Consultation Report (RACER) to the national office. The RACER analyzes the results accomplished by the Projects and evaluates the Project's performance of mandated activities.

    Recommendation: To strengthen OSHA's ability to assess the Consultation Program's progress toward key agency goals, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to review reporting requirements with an eye toward eliminating indicators that no longer reflect the program while adding new ones that do. Decisions about which indicators to eliminate or develop should be driven by the kind of information needed to measure progress toward goals and send a clear message to state programs on agency priorities. Any decisions should be accomplished in cooperation with state program managers and should ultimately contribute to reducing the reporting burden on state consultation programs. This process should be a key component of any upgrade the agency performs on the Integrated Management Information System.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2002, a task force created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement this recommendation decided that it could best collect information on workplace safety at worksites that participate in the Consultation Program through the OSHA Data Initiative--the primary means by which OSHA obtains information on the impact of its enforcement efforts. OSHA sought permission from OMB to collect this information through this initiative. OSHA also contracted with the National Council on Compensation Insurance to assess the impact of the Compensation Program by analyzing data for 1998, 1999, and 2001. However, the results of the study were inconclusive. OSHA will continue to identify a means for measuring the impact of consultation visits but, in the meantime, the agency will utilize, as appropriate, special studies to analyze workplace safety at worksites that participate in the Consultation Program.

    Recommendation: To strengthen OSHA's ability to assess the Consultation Program's progress toward key agency goals, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to require state consultation programs to collect and forward to OSHA data on injuries and illnesses from employers participating in the Consultation Program at some period after the consultation is completed for use in analyzing whether there is a relationship between participation in the program and reductions in workplace injuries and illnesses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSHA has sought to obtain a waiver to OMB Circular A-102, Grants and Cooperative Agreements with State and Local Governments, that would allow the agency to request that state consultation projects submit financial data by object class, as we recommended. However, OMB disapproved the request. Unable to obtain the necessary waiver, we recognize that OSHA has strengthened its guidance to the regional offices on monitoring OSHA grants and cooperative agreements by developing comprehensive guidance. In October 2003, OSHA issued "Financial and Administrative Monitoring of OSHA Grants and Cooperative Agreements," which includes monitoring guidelines and a section on audit requirements for states, local governments and non-profit organizations. OSHA has instead addressed this recommendation by making its regional offices use this guide and conduct in-depth audits of state consultation programs on a regular basis to ensure the financial integrity of the Consultation Program.

    Recommendation: To help ensure better oversight of state expenditures of consultation funds, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to seek to routinely obtain program expenditure data by object class from state consultation programs, either through conducting more frequent financial audits or by obtaining the necessary authority from the Office of Management and Budget.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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