Occupational Safety & Health:

Inspectors' Opinions on Improving OSHA Effectiveness

HRD-91-9FS: Published: Nov 14, 1990. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) activities, focusing on OSHA inspectors' responses to a questionnaire about: (1) OSHA enforcement; (2) safety and health standards; (3) education and training efforts; and (4) employer and worker involvement.

GAO found that OSHA inspectors: (1) lacked consensus on the effectiveness of the OSHA enforcement program and targeting policies; (2) needed more information to target enforcement efforts; (3) supported greater monetary penalties, more frequent use of instance-by-instance citations, and use of civil penalties other than fines; (4) believed that greater use of criminal sanctions would significantly reduce violations and recommended legislative and administrative changes that would allow the federal government to use criminal sanctions more effectively; (5) wanted authority to immediately remedy cases of imminent danger; (6) identified over 75 hazards not covered by specific standards which led them to occasionally cite the general duty clause; (7) wanted OSHA to improve the standard-setting process, make standards simpler to understand and enforce, and revise and update standards; (8) thought that insufficient knowledge of legislation, regulations, and standards contributed to many workplace injuries or illnesses, as well as safety and health violations; (9) thought that, although employers and workers needed more and better training, the education and training programs lacked adequate materials and were underutilized; (10) believed that mandatory safety and health programs would significantly improve safety and health in the workplace; and (11) wanted more worker involvement in OSHA enforcement activities and believed that workers needed protection against employer sanctions if they reported violations.

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