OSHA Enforcement: Effective, Focused, and Consistent

OSHA's mission is to promote and ensure workplace safety and health and reduce workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. Although OSHA constantly faces new challenges from new industries, new technologies, and an ever-changing workforce, OSHA's mission remains the same. Effective, focused, and consistent enforcement, using mechanisms such as Site Specific Targeting (SST) and the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP), is a key component in fulfilling that mission.

OSHA enforcement remains strong and effective. In FY2005, following an explosion at a petroleum refinery, OSHA conducted the most extensive investigation of its kind which resulted in the largest penalty ever -- over $20 million. Additionally, OSHA issued more willful violations during FY2005 than in any previous year. There are many components to OSHA's effort, and multiple intermediate measures of its effectiveness. However, the ultimate outcome measure of OSHA's effectiveness is the reduction in workplace injuries, illnesses and loss of life -- the fact that more workers than ever before go home safe, healthy and whole to their families at the end of every workday.

OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program Shows Significant Gains for FY2005

The Agency's Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) focuses on employers who, despite OSHA's enforcement and outreach efforts, repeatedly ignore their OSH Act obligations, and place their employees at risk. EEP targets cases with extremely serious violations related to a fatality or multiple willful or repeated violations. During FY2005, OSHA identified 615 inspections that qualified as EEP cases -- a 200 percent increase over the preceding year. The objective of EEP is to assure sustained compliance at these facilities. If an inspection is classified as an EEP, then it may receive, among other things, follow-up inspections, inspections of other workplaces of that employer, and more stringent settlement provisions.

OSHA Enforcement Activity in the Seven Target Industries Remains Robust

In 2003, OSHA developed a 5-year Strategic Management Plan (SMP) directing the Agency's resources towards three over-arching goals, one of which focuses on the reduction of occupational injuries, illnesses, and loss of life. To accomplish the goals of fatality, injury, and illness reduction set forth in the Strategic Management Plan, OSHA identified seven industries with high injury/illness rates and a high proportion of severe injuries/illnesses for focused targeting of outreach, education and enforcement activity. These industries include:
  • Landscaping and Horticultural Services
  • Oil and Gas Field Services
  • Fruit and Vegetable Processing
  • Blast Furnace and Basic Steel Products
  • Ship and Boat Building and Repair
  • Public Warehousing and Storage
  • Concrete and Concrete Products
During FY2005, OSHA conducted 2,924 inspections within these seven industries. Many of these inspections were a result of Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs), which Area and Regional offices develop to address specific hazards of their geographic location. The objective of our effort is to significantly lower the disproportionately high injury and illness rates in these industries.

Injury and Illness Rates Continue to Steadily Decline

Total recordable case rates continued their steady decline. The rate for 2004 (the most recent data available) was the lowest since the implementation of OSHA's revised recordkeeping standard in 2002. In addition to the decline in the rate of total recordable injuries and illnesses, the rate of cases that resulted in lost workdays fell yet again. The continued decline in the lost workday case rate means that fewer American workers encountered safety or health hazards that resulted in serious injuries or illnesses.

Injury and Illness Rates1,2 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 % Reduction
Total Recordable Case Rate 6.1 5.7 5.3 5.0 4.8 9.4%
Lost Workday Case Rate 3.0 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.5 10.7%

Total Recordable Case Rate
Total Recordable Case Rate

Note: Due to the revised recordkeeping requirements, estimates from 2002 survey on are not comparable with those from prior years, thus resulting in the discontinuous graph. The first year for the revised recordkeeping requirements was 2002, which was considered an evaluation period by BLS.

Lost Workday Case Rate
Lost Workday Case Rate

Note: Due to the revised recordkeeping requirements, estimates from 2002 survey on are not comparable with those from prior years, thus resulting in the discontinuous graph. The first year for the revised recordkeeping requirements was 2002, which was considered an evaluation period by BLS.

Fatality Rate Remains Low

The rate of fatal work injuries was 4.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers as compared to 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers the previous year. While a slight increase over the previous year, this figure is still very close to an all-time low and is down by nearly 5% since 2001. OSHA continues to aggressively pursue the reduction of workplace fatalities through implementation of the Strategic Management Plan. Through Site-Specific Targeting (SST), the Enhanced Enforcement Program, and Local Emphasis Programs, OSHA intends to maintain a high level of direct interventions in an effort to reduce the rate of occupational fatalities.

While fatalities among Hispanic workers increased slightly over last year the fatality rate is down by 12.5% since 2001. OSHA continues to broaden its efforts to reach these at-risk workers. Initiatives include Spanish-language publications available in print and on OSHA's website along with other compliance assistance information. Additionally, OSHA regional and area offices conduct Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) that target industries, such as construction, in which Hispanic workers are significantly represented.

Fatality Statistics 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 % Reduction
Total Number of Fatalities 5,920 5,915 5,534 5,575 5,703 3.7%
Fatality Rate3 4.3 4.3 4.0 4.0 4.1 4.9%
Hispanic Fatality Rate3 5.6 6.0 5.0 4.5 4.9 12.5%

Total Number of Fatalities
OSHA Inspection Activity Remains Vigorous

OSHA continues to maintain its high level of annual inspection activity. In FY2005, OSHA conducted 38,714 total inspections, exceeding its goal of 37,700. Unprogrammed inspections showed an increase over the previous fiscal year. OSHA responded to more employee complaints and conducted more inspections based on referrals from other agencies than the previous year. Programmed inspections continue to focus on high hazard industries, which have the highest lost-time injury rates.

OSHA Inspection Statistics FY2001 FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 % Change
Total Inspections 35,974 37,614 39,817 39,167 38,714 + 7.6%
Total Programmed Inspections 17,946 20,539 22,436 21,576 21,404 + 19.3%
Total Unprogrammed Inspections 18,027 17,075 17,381 17,590 17,310 - 4.0%
      Fatality Investigations 1,130 1,134 1,021 1,060 1,114 - 1.4%
      Complaints 8,374 7,896 7,969 8,062 7,716 - 7.9%
      Referrals 4,434 4,447 4,472 4,585 4,787 + 8.0%
      Other 4,089 3,598 3,880 3,829 4,807 + 17.6

Total Violations Remain at High Levels; Willful Violations Show Significant Gains

In FY2005, 85,307 violations of OSHA's standards and regulations were found in the nation's workplaces; a 9.5 percent increase since 2001. The number of willful violations increased 62 percent over FY2004. Although there has been a slight decrease in the total number of violations issued, this is attributable to OSHA's allocation of resources to the recovery efforts following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The increase in willful violations shows that OSHA enforcement continues to be strong, identifying employers who intentionally disregarded the law and ensuring that employees are protected from serious hazards. This demonstrates that OSHA is targeting its resources on those employers who have the highest injury and illness rates and on worksites where employees are more likely to be injured or killed on the job.

OSHA Violation Statistics FY2001 FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 % Change
Total Violations 77,893 77,633 83,539 86,708 85,307 + 9.5%
Total Serious Violations 52,180 53,845 59,861 61,666 61,018 + 16.9%
Total Willful Violations 537 331 404 462 747 + 39%
Total Repeat Violations 1,872 1,867 2,147 2,360 2350 + 26%
Total Other-than-Serious 22,776 21,128 20,552 21,705 20,819 - 8.6%

OSHA's enforcement efforts remain strong, fair, and effective, targeting the most hazardous workplaces and the employers who have the highest injury and illness rates. OSHA continues to focus on the bottom line: reducing workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Safety and health add value to business, to the workplace, and to life.

Footnote 1 Rates reflect number of cases per 100 full-time workers
Footnote 2 Rates are for private industry employers
Footnote 3 Rates reflect number of fatalities per 100,000 full-time employees