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40 Years of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Enforcement: Healthier Workers, Safer Workplaces.

Forty years ago, Congress responded to the public's demand for safer workplaces and passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The need was clear: far too many workers were getting killed or seriously injured on the job. The legislation created OSHA and charged the new agency with setting and enforcing standards to protect working men and women in America.

Since the passage of the OSH Act, workplace deaths have fallen nearly 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have dropped 67 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has almost doubled. More than 40 years of common sense standards, strong and fair enforcement, training, outreach, and compliance assistance have saved thousands of lives and prevented countless injuries. A major study published in Science Magazine by researchers at the Business Schools of the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard University confirmed that OSHA's inspections not only prevent workers from getting hurt on the job, but also produced $6 billion in estimated savings to employers nationwide. The study found that there was a 9.4 percent drop in injury claims at the workplace in the four years following an inspection and a 25 percent average savings on workers' compensation costs compared to similar, non-inspected companies. The benefits were observed among both small and large employers.1

OSHA Inspection Statistics

FY 2007

FY 2008

FY 2009

FY 2010

FY 2011

Total Inspections

39,324

38,667

39,004

40,993

40,614

Total Programmed Inspections

23,035

23,041

24,323

24,773

23,329

Total Unprogrammed Inspections

16,289

15,626

14,681

16,220

17,285

   Fatality/Catastrophe

1,043

936

836

830

851

   Complaints

7,055

6,708

6,661

8,027

8,765

   Referrals

5,007

4,880

4,375

4,634

4,776

   Other Unprogrammed Insps*

3,184

3,102

2,809

2,729

2,893

* Other Unprogrammed Inspections include: Monitoring, Follow-Up, Unprogrammed Related, and Unprogrammed Other Inspections.

Note: FY 2011 includes OSHA Information System (OIS) data and OSHA's Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) data that is of limited comparability to previous years that only include IMIS data.

Federal OSHA Inspection Activity in FY 2011

In FY 2011 OSHA conducted 40,614 total inspections. This number includes 215 significant and egregious (instance-by-instance) enforcement actions, each resulting in a total proposed monetary penalty of more than $100,000.2 In addition, OSHA conducted 23,329 programmed inspections. These inspections indicate that OSHA devoted more resources to proactively target the industries and employers that experienced the greatest number of workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA also conducted 17,285 unprogrammed inspections, including 851 fatality/catastrophe investigations.

OSHA Violation Statistics

FY 2007

FY 2008

FY 2009

FY 2010

FY 2011

Total Violations

88,846

87,687

87,663

96,742

85,514

Total Serious Violations

67,176

67,052

67,668

74,885

62,115

Total Willful Violations

415

517

401

1,5193

594

Total Repeat Violations

2,714

2,817

2,762

2,758

3,229

Total Other-than-Serious

18,331

17,131

16,615

17,244

19,306

Referrals or Significant Aid to Prosecutors Addressing OSHA Related Matters

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

Criminal Referrals

14

12

14

10

OSHA continues to make referrals or provide significant aid to prosecutors addressing OSHA related matters. These actions include referrals under Title 29 of the United States Code, Section 666(e), for employee deaths caused by willful conduct violating an OSHA standard, obstruction of justice, aiding state and local investigations and prosecutions on safety and health related matters, and fraud related to other OSHA matters, such as training card fraud. A criminal referral is made by the DOL Office of the Solicitor to the Department of Justice.

For more information on OSHA inspections, see the OSHA Inspection Fact Sheet https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/factsheet-inspections.pdf*, or click this link for more information on OSHA's compliance assistance services https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/index.html, and OSHA's free on site assistance for small employers https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html. For information on employee rights, see the OSHA Workers Page https://www.osha.gov/workers.html


1 Levine, D., R. Johnson, and M. Toffel. "Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with no Detectable Job Loss." Science. 336 (6083): 907-911 (2012).

2 This figure includes cases under OSHA's revised significant case procedures and new penalty policy.

3 It should be noted that the significant increase in willful violations in FY 2010 is due to a number of significant enforcement actions in the refinery industry, including an action against British Petroleum North America, which has been subsequently settled.


* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2129 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

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