An analysis of OSHA enforcement during the first two years of the Obama administration shows how the agency has changed its enforcement tactics compared to the Bush years.
OMB Watch says “the leash has been taken off the OSHA inspectorate under the Obama administration.”
The numbers paint the picture:
In 2009, federal and state OSHA programs handed out more than 68,000 citations, a 167% increase from the previous year. In 2010, OSHA handed out almost 114,000 violations in just the first six months of the year.
In 2008, OSHA handed out 203 willful violations. That number rose to 1,166 in 2009 and is on track to reach nearly the same number in 2010.
OSHA conducted 6,000 more inspections in 2009 than it did in 2008. OSHA is on track to conduct 1,600 more inspections in 2010 than in 2009.
How is OSHA escalating its enforcement? Two ways.
OSHA’s budget increased 7.68% from 2009 to 2010, and the Obama administration has asked for another 2.5% increase for 2011.
But it’s not just money that’s responsible for the OSHA crackdown on companies. Support from the top management has something to do with it, too.
After two workplace disasters that spent much of 2010 in the headlines — The Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners and the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers — President Obama signaled support for tougher safety enforcement.
After Upper Big Branch, Obama said “a failure first and foremost of management, a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes” allowed companies, such as Massey Energy, to repeatedly violate safety regulations without penalty.
In the aftermath of the BP spill, Obama said, “So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need … better enforcement.”
More than ever during the current administration, the phrase, “Don’t get on OSHA’s hit list, you’ll never get off it,” has taken on significant meaning for companies.
In April 2010, OSHA announced its Severe Violator Enforcement Program under which it has:
Increased inspections at companies with patterns of safety negligence,
Conducted mandatory follow-up inspections, and
Inspected other workplaces under the same ownership as those where severe problems have been found.
When all this is put together, what is OMB Watch’s conclusion about OSHA enforcement under the Obama administration? “OSHA appears to be developing an enforcement regime that focuses on industries and workplaces where employees are at greater risk for injury and illness.”
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