Improvements Needed in Monitoring State Plans for Occupational Safety and Health

HRD-82-29: Published: Jan 12, 1982. Publicly Released: Jan 12, 1982.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for approving and monitoring state-operated occupational safety and health programs. GAO was asked to evaluate the OSHA efforts to monitor state plan activities and the OSHA application of financial and accounting controls over the states' expenditure of federal grant funds.

Preliminary GAO work on the OSHA application of financial and accounting controls showed that federal grant funds were accounted for properly. To avoid duplicative effort, GAO did not pursue this matter further. However, a review showed that OSHA has not established acceptable levels of performance for state-operated programs and does not efficiently use its monitoring resources. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that state programs have standards and enforcement activities that are at least as effective as the federal program. OSHA has not developed performance measurement standards for use by its field offices in evaluating states' activities. Therefore, some OSHA evaluations have criticized state program aspects even though the states' performance was better than OSHA performance. Further, different standards have been used to evaluate various state programs. The states have been concerned that: (1) OSHA has not established basic guidelines on what was expected from them; (2) OSHA was imposing requirements on state programs that OSHA itself was not meeting; and (3) OSHA did not monitor state programs uniformly. OSHA has announced a project to establish specific performance standards to determine if states' enforcement activities are as effective as those of OSHA. OSHA is also not using its monitoring resources effectively. It routinely monitors many aspects of states' enforcement activities, even though it knows from past experience that the states are performing satisfactorily. However, OSHA has begun a project to improve its monitoring system.

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