Workplace Inspection Program Weak in Detecting and Correcting Serious Hazards

HRD-78-34: Published: May 19, 1978. Publicly Released: May 19, 1978.

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The Department of Labor estimated that during 1976 about 4,500 private industry workers suffered fatal work-related injuries and illnesses and that about 1 of every 11 workers had nonfatal injuries and illnesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for trying to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for more than 60 million workers. It establishes national occupational safety and health standards and conducts inspections of work places.

A review of Labor and state inspections revealed that: (1) serious work hazards were sometimes not identified, this often resulted from inadequate guidance and monitoring; (2) compliance officers were unaware of the applicability of some standards and believed others were unenforceable; (3) required follow-up inspections to ensure elimination of serious hazards sometimes were not made and often, when made, were untimely; (4) citations for some serious hazards were withdrawn, sometimes without good cause, without review and without reinspections; (5) many serious hazards were cited as nonserious violations, and therefore, follow-up inspections were not made; and (6) requests for additional time to correct hazards were routinely approved without determining that employers tried to correct hazards.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct OSHA and the states to establish a continuing program for evaluating the effectiveness of inspections to include: (1) identifying worksite hazards likely to exist in a particular industry and requiring compliance officers to adequately report findings; (2) developing procedures for effective supervisory review of inspection case files; (3) reinspecting worksites periodically and evaluating compliance officers on the job; and (4) reviewing officers' recommendations for new standards. The Secretary should inform Labor regional offices and states that certain standards are mandatory. The Secretary should require OSHA and the states to: (1) confer with compliance officers involved before deciding whether to withdraw citations; (2) review written justifications for modified or deleted serious violations; (3) reinspect sites to determine if violations, deleted from citations due to inadequate inspections or errors, should be sustained; (4) develop procedures to ensure timely and effective follow-up inspections; (5) develop guidelines to ensure proper classification of serious violations; and (6) evaluate policies and practices for reviewing employers' requests for additional time to correct hazards.

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