The audit found examples where employers given reductions were later cited for the same violations, indicating their corrections were not sufficient or were not made company-wide.

Study: Reducing OSHA Penalties Didn't Lead Companies to Fix Hazards

DOL's inspector general said OSHA has not effectively evaluated the impact of $351 million in penalty reductions meant to encourage changes.

The Office of Inspector General of the Labor Department, by way of an audit, sought to answer the question: Has OSHA effectively evaluated the impact of penalty reduction incentives on workplace safety and health?

The audit covered 49,192 federal OSHA inspections of non-federal employers initiated between July 2007 and June 2009. The inspections resulted in 142,187 citations and $523.5 million in penalties that were reduced by $351.2 million (67 percent).

The audit found OSHA has not effectively evaluated the impact of the reductions, which are meant as an incentive for employers to improve workplace safety and health. Small employers received the largest reductions (78 percent) but generally had the worst safety and health history — more inspections, more fatalities, and more high-gravity serious (likely to cause death) and repeat violations. OSHA did not always consider an employer's overall safety and health performance when reducing penalties, in part because its information system cannot effectively track violations company-wide. The audit found 4,791 employers with a history of serious violations had received penalty reductions of $86.6 million. Half of these employers received reductions of $42.6 million on subsequent inspections where a similar standard was violated, indicating the employer's hazard corrections may not have been comprehensive and company-wide.

As much as $127 million (36 percent) in penalty reductions may not have been appropriately granted. Specifically, reductions granted in consideration of the employers' size resulted in what amounts to an entitlement as 98 percent of all citations were reduced at the maximum rate. OSHA can limit size reductions for small employers with the more serious violations, but its use of that policy was minimal and up to $91.8 million of reductions may have been granted inappropriately. Another $2.3 million of reductions exceeded limits set forth in the directives. The auditors said OSHA area directors did not document the justification for reductions resulting from informal settlement agreements, for an estimated 49 percent of reductions or $31.8 million.

Finally, the report says OSHA incorrectly granted history reductions of $1.1 million to employers with prior violations. The auditors made 11 recommendations to Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, to commit the necessary resources to effectively evaluate the impact of penalty reductions, improve information systems, and revise and implement policies and procedures. OSHA provided comments expressing concerns about some audit findings and recommendations. Based on OSHA's response, OIG clarified two recommendations, but the overall conclusions were unchanged.

To view the report and OSHA's response, go to:

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Safety Management Software - Free Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Software’s comprehensive suite of modules help organizations to record and manage incidents, inspections, hazards, behavior based safety observations, and much more. Improve safety with an easy to use tool for tracking, notifying and reporting on key safety data.

  • Create Flexible Safety Dashboards

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations allows you to easily create and view safety KPIs to help you make informed business decisions. Our best of breed default indicators can also save you valuable time and effort in monitoring safety metrics.

  • Schedule and Record Observations

    IndustrySafe's Observations module allows managers, supervisors, and employees to conduct observations on employees involved in safety critical behavior. IndustrySafe’s pre-built BBS checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • Why Is Near Miss Reporting Important?

    A near miss is an accident that's waiting to happen. Learn how to investigate these close calls and prevent more serious incidents from occurring in the future.

  • Get the Ultimate Guide to Safety Training

    When it comes to safety training, no matter the industry, there are always questions regarding requirements and certifications. We’ve put together a guide on key safety training topics, requirements for certifications, and answers to common FAQs.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - May 2019

    May 2019


      Why Pick a PAPR? 
      Fire Safety: Plan, Prevent, Train, Recover
      The Truth About Heat Stress and FRC
      Underestimated No More
    View This Issue