skip navigational links Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Section 2. The Changing Workforce and Workplace

Since OSHA's inception, the nation has made substantial progress in occupational safety and health; for example, since 1970, the work-related fatality rate has been cut in half and overall injury and illness rates have declined in industries where OSHA has concentrated its attention. In some areas the progress has been notable: brown lung disease has been virtually eliminated in the textile industry, and trenching and excavation fatalities have been reduced by 35% since 1970.

Even with these important successes, significant hazards and unsafe conditions still exist in the American workplace. The reality remains that today six thousand Americans die from workplace injuries each year. An estimated 50,000 workers die every year from illnesses caused by workplace exposures and six million people suffer non-fatal workplace injuries. Injuries alone cost U.S. businesses over $110 billion annually.

The challenge of making satisfactory progress toward the accomplishment of OSHA's mission is affected by a number of new or emerging factors impeding OSHA's efforts to better deliver on its promise:
  • The number of workers OSHA is responsible for protecting has expanded dramatically

  • The dynamic workplace environment has resulted in rapid technological advances and changes in the nature of work, which has led to new and unforeseen health and safety issues, requiring increased time and attention

  • To satisfy the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), OSHA must have the data needed to evaluate the Agency's impact. This will require a substantial investment in data systems, because many of the necessary sources of data to measure OSHA's performance are not currently in place.
With these existing and anticipated future challenges, OSHA needs to more sharply focus its efforts to develop and implement methods of leveraging its capabilities to achieve the greatest possible impact on worker safety and health.

Section 3. OSHA Strategic and Outcome Goals

To achieve its vision, OSHA has established three interdependent and complementary strategic goals to guide the development of programs and activities for the Agency. The successful accomplishment of any one of the strategic goals will not be possible without parallel successes in the other goals. For example, a focus on reducing hazards, exposures, and injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace will be difficult to achieve without realizing the goal which calls for the engagement of workers and employers in this effort. Nor will the other goals be attained without ensuring that OSHA develops strong public confidence and support for its activities.

OSHA's success in meeting the goals and objectives outlined in this Strategic Plan will be measured by aggregating results from multiple program areas. This will help ensure that different elements within OSHA work together to achieve the Agency's overall goals and objectives, help break down organizational barriers, and engage the whole Agency in their accomplishment. This Strategic Plan is designed to integrate various program activities, so that there is a unified purpose and direction for all of the programmatic elements within the Agency. For example, when a new standard is issued, it is expected that targeted inspection programs will be conducted to ensure compliance with the standard, training and outreach materials will be developed, and compliance assistance will be provided to educate employers and workers.

It should be noted that this Strategic Plan was developed to address Federal OSHA's goals and objectives. The role of the 25 States and U.S. territories who operate their own occupational safety and health programs are discussed in Section 10 of this document.

OSHA's Strategic Goals are aligned with the Department of Labor's Strategic and Outcome Goals, which are:

Goal 1 A Prepared Workforce Enhance opportunities for America's workforce
  • Increase employment, earnings, and assistance
  • Assist youth in making the transition to work
  • Provide information and tools about work
  • Provide information and analysis on the U.S. economy
Goal 2 A Secure Workforce Promote the economic security of workers and families
  • Increase compliance with worker protection laws
  • Protect worker benefits
  • Provide worker retraining
Goal 3 Quality Workplaces Foster quality workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair
  • Reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities
  • Foster equal opportunity workplaces
  • Support a greater balance between work and family
  • Reduce exploitation of child labor and address core international labor standards issues
OSHA's three strategic goals, all of which fall under the Department's Strategic Goal of Quality Workplaces and the Outcome Goal to Reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, are:
  • Improve workplace safety and health for all workers, as evidenced by fewer hazards, reduced exposures, and fewer injuries, illnesses, and fatalities

  • Change workplace culture to increase employer and worker awareness of, commitment to, and involvement in safety and health

  • Secure public confidence through excellence in the development and delivery of OSHA's programs and services.
The strategic, outcome, and performance goals discussed below will serve as a scorecard for assessing the Agency's performance over the next six years.
DOL Strategic Goal 3. Quality Workplaces - Foster quality workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair
DOL Outcome Goal 3.1 Reduce Workplace Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
OSHA Strategic Goal 1 Improve workplace safety and health for all workers, as evidenced by fewer hazards, reduced exposures, and fewer injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

OSHA's core mission is to assure a safe and healthful workplace for workers. Achieving this goal will require the Agency to engage the occupational safety and health community (e.g., business, organized labor, professional associations) in identifying and addressing significant workplace hazards. OSHA itself will use a variety of strategies that include rulemaking, enforcement, compliance assistance, and outreach. Depending on the nature of the problem, OSHA may develop strategies that focus on a specific hazard, a particular industry, or a specific workplace that has a history of high injury and illness rates.


Reduce the number of worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by focusing nation-wide attention and Agency resources on the most prevalent types of workplace injuries and illnesses, the most hazardous industries, and the most hazardous workplaces
  • 1.1A Reduce three of the most prevalent types of workplace injuries and causes of illnesses by 15% in selected industries and occupations.

  • 1.1B Reduce injuries and illnesses by 15% in five industries characterized by high-hazard workplaces.

  • 1.1C Decrease fatalities in the construction industry by 15%, by focusing on the four leading causes of fatalities (falls, struck-by, crushed-by, and electrocutions and electrical injuries).

  • 1.1D Reduce injuries and illnesses by 20% in at least 100,000 workplaces where OSHA initiates an intervention.

  • 1.1E Within four years of the effective date of significant final rules, achieve a 20% reduction in fatalities, injuries, or illnesses, or, for program rules or revisions, a 20% or greater increase in the rate of current industry compliance.

  • 1.1F Reduce the total case rates for most Federal agencies by 12%.
Strategies to Achieve Goals:
  • Maintain a strong enforcement presence as an effective deterrent for employers who fail to meet their safety and health responsibilities. (1.1A-E)

  • Target inspections using data-driven approaches to address the hazards, industries, and occupations identified by OSHA's performance goals. (1.1A-D, F)

  • Link OSHA's compliance assistance and enforcement strategies to impact the hazards and industries targeted by OSHA's performance goals. (1.1A-F)

  • Leverage enforcement approaches (e.g., corporate-wide settlement agreements) in industries and occupations that cause the most injuries and illnesses and pose the greatest risk to workers. (1.1A-D)

  • Implement local strategic initiatives within the overall framework of OSHA's performance goals. (1.1A-F)

  • Develop partnerships and other cooperative efforts with the occupational safety and health community to identify and address significant workplace hazards, emphasizing those targeted by OSHA's performance goals. (1.1A-F)

  • Initiate appropriate actions (standards promulgation, non-rulemaking approaches, cooperative programs) to address the hazards identified by the Priority Planning Process. (1.1A-D)

  • Deliver an appropriate mix of interventions and compliance assistance tools to assist employers in complying with significant final rules. (1.1E)

  • Establish a Presidential initiative to reduce the total injury and illness case rate in Federal agencies. (1.1F)

DOL Strategic Goal 3. QQuality Workplaces - Foster quality workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair
DOL Outcome Goal 3.1 Reduce Workplace Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
OSHA Strategic Goal 2 Change workplace culture to increase employer and worker awareness of, commitment to, and involvement in safety and health.

OSHA will strive to foster workplace cultures where employers and workers are aware of, committed to, and involved in ensuring that work is done in a safe and healthy manner. OSHA's past efforts have demonstrated that worker safety and health is directly linked to the existence and effectiveness of a safety and health program in a workplace. For example, in the past fifteen years, OSHA's experience with workplaces approved for the Agency's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) indicates that VPP establishments not only have demonstrated significant reductions in safety and health hazards, resulting in dramatic reductions in workers' compensation costs and lost workdays, but have also exhibited better economic performance, improved labor-management relations, reduced worker turnover rates, and improved worker morale. Effectively implemented safety and health programs prove that "safety pays" and demonstrate this in many ways which go beyond monetary savings alone. OSHA has also seen similar results with the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) in the Agency's consultation program.


Promote programmatic/systematic approaches to safety and health in the workplace (i.e., safety and health programs):
  • 2.1A Fifty percent (50%) of employers (in general industry) who are targeted for or request an OSHA intervention have either implemented an effective safety and health program or significantly improved their existing program.

Enhance awareness of safety and health in America's workplaces through the provision of consultation, training, and outreach services to employers and workers:

  • 2.2A Ninety percent (90%) of employers and workers rate OSHA's compliance assistance (consultation, training, education, and outreach) as useful in improving safety and health in their workplaces.


Enhance worker involvement in all aspects of safety and health in the workplace:
  • 2.3A One hundred percent (100%) of proposed OSHA regulations and initiatives will include a worker involvement requirement.

  • 2.3B One hundred percent (100%) of OSHA on-site activities (e.g., inspections, consultation visits) will include a worker involvement component.

  • 2.3C Ninety percent (90%) of workers in establishments where there is an OSHA intervention will rate their involvement in workplace safety and health activities as satisfactory.
Strategies to Achieve Goals:
  • Increase employer and worker awareness of the value and importance of safety and health programs through development and delivery of targeted outreach materials, training, and public awareness efforts (e.g., speeches, conferences). (2.1A)

  • Develop a standardized, valid safety and health program evaluation measurement tool which can be used to assess the quality of an establishment's safety and health program. Use the results from application of the tool to assist employers in implementing or improving their safety and health programs. (2.1A)

  • Propose a Safety and Health program rule to require employers to develop effective safety and health programs. (2.1A)

  • Make safety and health information and materials easily accessible to employers and workers via both the Internet (e.g., OSHA Home Page, Technical Links, Expert Advisors) and paper-based publications. (2.2A)

  • Increase the use of technology-based training delivery systems (e.g., computer-based training and distance learning) to expand training opportunities for employers and workers. (2.2A)

  • Develop and disseminate occupational safety and health training and reference materials which address the needs of small business employers and workers. (2.2A)

  • Implement a coordinated outreach plan for significant OSHA initiatives (e.g., standards, guidelines, emphasis programs) to ensure employer and worker awareness of new programs and requirements. (2.2A)

  • Evaluate, where possible, the impact of OSHA compliance assistance strategies to determine the most effective ways to increase employer and worker awareness of safety and health issues and requirements. (2.2A)

  • Develop OSHA standards and reference materials in plain language to ensure that they are readable and easy to understand (consistent with the Presidential Memorandum on Plain Language) (2.2A)

  • Identify and include worker involvement components, as appropriate, in proposed OSHA regulations and initiatives. (2.3A)

  • Ensure worker participation in OSHA on-site activities, including both inspections and consultation visits (2.3B, 2.3C)

DOL Strategic Goal 3. Quality Workplaces - Foster quality workplaces that are safe, healthy, and fair
DOL Outcome Goal 3.1 Reduce Workplace Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities
OSHA Strategic Goal 3 Secure public confidence through excellence in the development and delivery of OSHA's programs and services

Over the next six years, OSHA will strengthen its reputation as a leader in occupational safety and health by identifying and addressing the significant causes of workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Through the effective delivery of its programs and services, OSHA will demonstrate that it has a positive impact on occupational safety and health and has increased public confidence that OSHA is effectively carrying out its mandate.

In carrying out that mandate, OSHA will increase the diversity of ideas and perspectives available to Agency decision-makers by involving its customers, partners and stakeholders. The Agency will likewise protect the safety-and-health-related rights of workers under the OSH Act through a prompt response to worker complaints and inspection of fatalities and catastrophes, and by enforcing OSHA-related whistleblower legislation. Finally, OSHA will continue its pursuit of excellence by aligning its management systems and processes with, and in support of, its goals and strategies.


Respond effectively to legal mandates, so that workers are provided full protection under the OSH Act:

  • 3.1A Initiate inspection of 95% of fatalities and catastrophes within one working day of notification.

  • 3.1B Initiate investigation of 95% of worker complaints within one working day or conduct an on-site inspection within five working days.

  • 3.1C Complete investigation of 100% of "whistleblower" cases within established timeframes.


Foster organizational excellence and increase collaboration between the Agency and its stakeholders:
  • 3.2A Ninety-five percent (95%) of stakeholders and partners rate their involvement in OSHA's stakeholder/partnership process as positive.

  • 3.2B Eighty percent (80%) of employers and workers interacting with OSHA will rate OSHA staff's professionalism, competence, and knowledge as satisfactory.

Design and implement management systems and processes supportive of the Agency's goals, objectives and strategies:
  • 3.3A Fully implement the information systems necessary to collect Agency performance data and develop the capacity to analyze OSHA's performance.

  • 3.3B Maintain performance appraisal systems which link competencies and performance to Agency Performance Plans.

  • 3.3C Ensure that OSHA financial systems and procedures comply with all applicable accounting and financial system standards, laws, regulations, policies, and practices.

  • 3.3D Reduce the paperwork burden associated with OSHA regulations by 25% by the end of FY 1998, and thereafter by 5% each year through FY 2001.
Strategies to Achieve Goals:
  • Analyze program data to identify program improvement opportunities, and develop tools, systems, and processes which result in quicker abatement of hazards. (3.1A-B)

  • Complete OSHA's field redesign efforts and implement proactive interventions and process improvements to provide grass-roots customer service. (3.1A-C, 3.2B)

  • Implement recommendations for process and effectiveness improvements in OSHA's whistleblower program, including a revised measurement approach. (3.1C)

  • Consult with stakeholders and partners to obtain input and advice on OSHA programs and policies. Utilize the advisory committee process in developing, implementing, and evaluating OSHA programs. (3.2A)

  • Update the Priority Planning Process to identify the most important current and emerging workplace hazards, establish and assess Agency priorities, and recommend solutions for dealing with identified issues. (3.2A)

  • Maximize the use of consensus-based rulemaking approaches in developing proposed regulations. (3.2A)

  • Obtain feedback from OSHA stakeholders/partners, employers, and workers on a regular basis to assess their perceptions of OSHA's impact on worker safety and health. (3.2A-B)

  • Continue to develop employees' skills to ensure that OSHA staff are well-trained and knowledgeable, and are delivering services in a fair, consistent and effective manner. (3.2B)

  • Develop management systems to accurately target the most prevalent sources of workplace injuries and illnesses. (3.3A)

  • Establish and implement a performance measurement system to track individual and organizational performance against OSHA's strategic and performance goals and use the results to evaluate and modify OSHA programs and strategies. (3.3A-B)

  • Modify and maintain the information technology (IT) infrastructure needed to support OSHA's strategic goals, the Department's IT goals, and the requirements of recent legislation, such as the Information Technology Management and Reform Act (ITMRA), and the electronic Freedom of Information Act (EFOIA). (3.3A)

  • Foster union-management partnerships and widespread employee participation to develop and implement new programs and strategies. (3.3B)

  • Identify and develop a cost accounting approach and system that will enable OSHA to more accurately track program costs against program activities. (3.3C)

  • Implement systems and procedures to comply with the Chief Financial Officer's Act, the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act, and the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA). (3.3C)

  • Evaluate OSHA paperwork and burden requirements and implement reduction strategies. (3.3D)

Key External Factors That May Affect Performance

Several factors may impact OSHA's ability to effectively carry out its mission, achieve its strategic goals, and measure the impact of its programs. Many of these factors can have a large influence on workplace incidence rates and confound the Agency's ability to accurately identify a particular cause for shifts in safety and health conditions in specific firms or industries. OSHA will monitor these factors, evaluate their impact, and make adjustments to its program to ensure that its efforts are responsive to these conditions.
  • General Economic Conditions - Economic changes influence working conditions and often have an immediate impact on injuries, illnesses, and workplace fatalities. For example, favorable business climates spur companies to increase production. This is often accomplished by hiring additional workers, requiring existing workers to work longer hours, speeding up production lines, or experimenting with newer, unproven technologies - situations that tend to create an environment more conducive to accidents and exposures. Conversely, during a constricting economy, firms tend to dismiss newer, younger workers, who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, have higher injury rates, and to retain older, more experienced workers who tend to be more safety conscious. Shrinking economies also encourage firms to eliminate safety directors and other "overhead" staff, resulting in a lessening of focus on safety and health. Similarly, changes in worker compensation laws and the associated benefits can influence worker and employer willingness to report a work-related injury or illness.

  • Changing Nature of Work and Workforce Demographics - OSHA needs to continually monitor the changing nature of work and workplace demographics to orient its programs toward new workplace conditions. For example, it has been well documented that America is moving from a manufacturing-based to a more service-based economy. Service sector work and some automated processes (e.g., automated check-out counters) have resulted in new body stressors and injuries, such as "ergonomically" induced carpal tunnel wrist injuries. OSHA's rules in the past have not traditionally addressed these segments of the workforce, and employers in this arena are not accustomed to being regulated. Adding to this dilemma are an increased number of non-English speakers, workers who are starting work at a younger age or continuing to work at an older age, and the rapidly increasing number of temporary workers. For these workplace demographic changes, OSHA will need to use new and innovative approaches to ensuring worker safety.

  • Legislation, Judicial Review, and Budgetary Decisions - New legislation (e.g., OSHA reform) enacted by Congress or riders attached to other bills may impact OSHA's ability to meet the goals outlined in this Strategic Plan. In addition, the polices and rules of OSHA and other regulatory agencies undergo continuous legal scrutiny. Decisions made in judicial forums may also impose timetables and other requirements that can alter the timelines for accomplishment of OSHA's strategic goals. Finally, OSHA's strategic plan is predicated on stable and steady resources.

  • Partner, Stakeholder, and Customer Needs - A key component of OSHA's strategic plan involves the inclusion and consideration of its partner, stakeholder, and customer needs and requirements. As workplace safety and health conditions change, OSHA will consider ways of adjusting its programs to more effectively serve the needs of these constituencies.

    Agencies with direct ties to OSHA (e.g., National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and Bureau of Labor Statistics) can provide valuable support in assisting the Agency to achieve its mission. For example, NIOSH's research agenda helps direct where OSHA's regulatory priorities should be placed, and also identifies other hazards that are more appropriately addressed through non-regulatory approaches. Similarly, BLS collects data necessary to measure OSHA performance in a number of areas.

  • Data Systems and Data Analysis to Support Performance Measurements - OSHA is currently developing the necessary sources of data and establishing the parameters for measurement-related analysis. However, measuring impacts may be complicated for some interventions because there may be a time lag between the intervention, data collection, and attaining the desired result.

  • Catastrophic Incidents - Catastrophic accidents occurring in the future may result in the need for a redeployment of OSHA's resources to address the root causes of these situations. This could result in a need for restructuring both regulatory and enforcement approaches.
While OSHA cannot control these factors, the Agency has conducted several studies to measure the degree to which specific interventions reduce injuries at a specific worksite. In designing those studies, OSHA controlled (or attempted to control) for external factors such as technological innovation, unionization, and workplace size. However, obtaining data for the external variables is difficult, expensive, and subject to high degrees of error. Measurement of such long-term effects as reduction in workplace disease is, by itself, very difficult, and controlling for external factors, such as improvements in medical care, is almost impossible. However, OSHA attempts to continually monitor key factors at the macro level in order to make adjustments to its program to ensure that its efforts are sensitive to changing conditions. And through activities such as coordinating its research priorities with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA may be able to anticipate some technological changes and mitigate the likelihood that these changes will increase worker exposure to new hazards.
Previous Page Next Page

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Back to Top Back to Top

Contact Us | Freedom of Information Act | Information Quality | Customer Survey
Privacy and Security Statement | Disclaimers
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210