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OSHA Enforcement: Striving for Safe and Healthy Workplaces

OSHA's purpose is to reduce workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses by promoting workplace safety and health. Although OSHA must continually respond to new challenges from emerging industries, new technologies, and an ever-changing workforce, the overall mission remains the same. Strategic mechanisms such as Site Specific Targeting (SST), Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs), National Emphasis Programs (NEPs), and the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) have been designed to aid OSHA in fulfilling that purpose.

OSHA's enforcement programs remain focused and efficient. Although there are many components to OSHA's effort, and multiple intermediate measures of its effectiveness, the most meaningful indicator of OSHA's success is the number of employees who go home every day healthy and uninjured.

Enhanced Enforcement Program: Continued Success in FY2007

The Agency's Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) targets employers who, despite OSHA's enforcement and outreach efforts, repeatedly ignore their OSH Act obligations and place their employees at risk. The EEP focuses on cases with extremely serious violations related either to a fatality or to multiple willful or repeated violations. If an inspection is classified as an EEP case, then it may receive, among other things, follow-up inspections, inspections of other workplaces of that employer, and more stringent settlement provisions. During the first four years (FY2004-2007) of the program, OSHA identified an average of 524 inspections per year that qualified as EEP cases. In FY2007, OSHA identified 719 EEP cases, a record high.

Local Emphasis Programs: Targeted Strategy and Localized Expertise

Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) are enforcement strategies designed and implemented at the Regional Office and/or Area Office levels. Nationwide, there are over 150 individual programs (sometimes implemented by multiple offices) that address a wide range of industries and hazards such as:
  • Logging
  • Grain Handling
  • Overhead Power Lines
  • Bridge and Tunnel Construction
  • Residential Construction
  • Meat Packing
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Auto Body Shops
  • Commercial Diving
  • Electroplating

During FY2007, OSHA conducted 21,824 inspections (out of 39,324 total inspections) that were related to an LEP. Incorporating localized expertise and knowledge to target specific industries and hazards allows for more efficient use of OSHA's resources.

Injury and Illness Rates: Record Lows in FY2007

The continued decline in the total recordable and lost workday case rates indicates that fewer American employees encountered safety or health hazards resulting in serious injuries or illnesses. The rates for calendar year 2006, reported on October 16, 2007, were the lowest that BLS has ever reported. Not only has the rate at which employees experienced a recordable injury decreased by 12.0% since calendar year 2003, but the lost workday case rate, the measure of cases in which employees were absent from work, restricted, or transferred as a result of a workplace injury or illness, has also declined by 11.5% over the same period.

Injury and Illness Rates1,2 2003 2004 2005 2006 % Reduction 2002-2006
Total Recordable Case Rate 5.0 4.8 4.6 4.4 -12.0%
Lost Workday Case Rate 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.3 -11.5%

Total Recordable Case Rate
Lost Workday Case Rate

Workplace Fatality Rate: An All-Time Low

OSHA continues to aggressively pursue the reduction of workplace fatalities through implementation of its Strategic Management Plan ( During the most recent year for which data is available, calendar year 2006, the rate of fatal work injuries was 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 employees. This rate matches the all-time low achieved since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) instituted its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 1992.

OSHA continues to broaden its efforts to reach at-risk Hispanic employees. Targeted initiatives include Spanish-language publications available in print and on OSHA's website along with other compliance assistance information. Additionally, OSHA's Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) target industries, such as construction, in which Hispanic employees are significantly represented. As a result, the fatality rate for Hispanic workers has decreased by nearly 17 percent since 2001.

Fatality Statistics 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 % Reduction
Total Number of Fatalities 5,915 5,524 5,575 5,764 5,734 5,840  -1.3%
Fatality Rate3 4.3 4.0 4.0 4.1 4.0 4.0  -7.0%
Hispanic Fatality Rate3 6.0 5.0 4.5 5.0 4.9 5.0 -16.7%

Total Number of Fatalities

OSHA Inspection Activity: Focused and Efficient

By proactively targeting the industries and employers that experience the greatest number of workplace injuries and illnesses, OSHA continues to maintain its high level of annual inspection activity. In FY2007, OSHA conducted 39,324 total inspections. This total represents 4.3% more inspections than OSHA's stated goal of 37,700. This year's significant enforcement action included over one hundred inspections that each resulted in a total proposed monetary penalty of over $100,000. Programmed inspections also showed a 2.7% increase over the same period. Furthermore, in FY2007, OSHA conducted 16,288 unprogrammed inspections, including employee complaints, accidents, and referrals, thus demonstrating OSHA's firm commitment to be continually responsive to employee concerns related to workplace safety and health. By fostering good working relationships with state, local, and other federal authorities, OSHA experienced a significant 12.0% increase over the past five fiscal years in the number of inspections generated through referrals from other governmental agencies. Additionally, the number of fatality investigations decreased as compared to the previous fiscal year and represented only a slight increase over the past five fiscal years.

OSHA Inspection Statistics FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007 % Change 2003-2007
Total Inspections 39,817 39,167 38,714 38,579 39,324  -1.2%
Total Programmed Inspections 22,436 21,576 21,404 21,506 23,035  2.7%
Total Unprogrammed Inspections 17,381 17,590 17,310 17,073 16,288  -6.3%
      Fatality Investigations 1,021 1,060 1,114 1,081 1,043  2.2%
      Complaints 7,969 8,062 7,716 7,376 7,055  -11.5%
      Referrals 4,472 4,585 4,787 5,019 5,007 12.0%
      Other 3,880 3,829 4,807 3,555 3,183  -18.0%

Hazards Identified: Total Violations Rise; Serious and Repeat Violations Increase

In FY2007, 88,846 violations of OSHA's standards and regulations were found in the nation's workplaces, a 6.4 percent increase since FY2003. The number of willful violations, while a decrease from the previous year, still represents an increase of 2.7 percent over the past five fiscal years. The number of both serious and repeat violations issued increased significantly over the previous fiscal year, as well as over the past five fiscal years. The considerable increases in these types of violations demonstrate OSHA's commitment to identifying and eliminating a greater number of serious hazards in the workplace, as well as identifying more employers who have repeatedly violated OSHA standards.

OSHA Violation Statistics FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006 FY2007 % Change
Total Violations 83,539 86,708 85,307 83,913 88,846  6.4%
Total Serious Violations 59,861 61,666 61,018 61,337 67,176 12.2%
Total Willful Violations 404 462 747 479 415 2.7
Total Repeat Violations 2,147 2,360 2,350 2,551 2,714 26.4%
Total Other-than-Serious 20,552 21,705 20,819 19,246 18,331  -10.8%

Whistleblower Complaint Protection: Integral to OSHA's Mission

Section 11(c) of the Act prohibits reprisals, in any form, against employees who exercise rights under the Act. The administration of Section 11(c) is thus integral to OSHA's core mission. In FY2007, OSHA completed 1,163 investigations of 11(c) complaints. Twenty-two percent were meritorious complaints, 95% of which resulted in settlements. Sixty-four percent of the complaints were dismissed, and 15% were withdrawn.

The twenty-six state programs completed 1,022 whistleblower investigations. Twenty-four percent were meritorious, 86% of which resulted in settlements. Fifty-nine percent of the complaints were dismissed, and 17% were withdrawn.


OSHA's enforcement efforts remain critical to workplace safety and health by targeting the most hazardous workplaces and the employers that have the highest injury and illness rates. Innovative approaches such as the EEP, LEPs, and NEPs enable OSHA to effectively identify serious safety and health hazards, to address recalcitrant employers, and to efficiently use its resources. OSHA's continual focus on its bottom line, reducing workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, adds value to the workplace for both employers and employees.

1Rates reflect number of cases per 100 full-time employees. [Back to Text]
2Rates are for private industry employers. [Back to Text]
3Rates reflect number of fatalities per 100,000 full-time employees. [Back to Text]

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