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Inspector General Reports OSHA Has Not Evaluated Its Enforcement Program

The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), today held a hearing to review state workforce protection plans and a recent Department of Labor Inspector General report critical of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) oversight of these state plans.

"Today, 27 states and territories administer workplace safety programs and the results of their efforts are remarkable," said Chairman Walberg. "According to the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, participating states conducted more than 61,000 inspections and identified an estimated 130,000 workplace safety violations. When compared to the federal safety program, state plans generally lead to more workplace inspections and result in more innovative safety solutions." 

Testifying on behalf of the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association (OSHPA), Kevin Beauregard described why state safety plans are successful. "One of the many benefits of State Plan Programs is the flexibility afforded States to address hazards that are unique or more prevalent in particular states, or are not already being addressed by OSHA," said Beaugregard. "In many instances, State Plans have passed more stringent standards or additional standards that do not exist on the federal level, while OSHA labors through the standard adoption process that frequently takes not only years but decades."

Despite the success of these state workforce safety programs, an Inspector General report issued in March 2011 found state officials frustrated with the lack of clear expectations from OSHA. In fact, the findings reveal OSHA has not evaluated the success of its own enforcement program.

As the report states, "OSHA is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of State OSH programs. While it collects statistics on program activities, this is not sufficient to assess a state’s effectiveness in protecting workers. OSHA has not designed a method to determine that State Plans are at least as effective as Federal OSHA in reducing injuries and illnesses. Moreover, OSHA has not evaluated the impact of its own enforcement program in order to arrive at minimum criterion to evaluate state programs."

Testifying on behalf of the Inspector General's office, Elliot Lewis discussed the impact a lack of clear standards has on worker safety programs: "This not only limits OSHA’s ability to ensure its own program operates in an effective manner but also to determine whether State Plans are, or are not, at least as effective as Federal OSHA."

Worker safety is a leading priority for the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  As such, Chairman Walberg announced he will request the Government Accountability Office conduct a review of OSHA's enforcement program.

"In recent years," said Chairman Walberg, "OSHA has stepped up its scrutiny of state plans, and in many ways, this is welcomed. We want to ensure every safety program is producing results and protecting workers. However, OSHA has not experienced this same level of scrutiny, which is why I will be asking the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of OSHA’s enforcement program using the same standards of success OSHA uses to evaluate state plans."

To learn more about this hearing, please click here.