Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

U.S. Department of Labor

Assistant Secretary for
Occupational Safety and Health
Washington, D.C. 20210

DOL Seal

September 30, 2015

Assistant Secretary
SUBJECT: Enforcement Weighting System (EWS)

This memo serves to introduce and explain the new metric for counting inspections: Enforcement Units, applied in the new Enforcement Weighting System.

Inspections conducted by Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) are one of the fundamental tools that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses to encourage employers to abate hazards. As we launch the EWS, I believe it is important to recognize what will not change. Whether it is to respond to a worker complaint alleging exposure to serious workplace hazards, investigate the occurrence of a severe injury or illness, or implement an enforcement emphasis program, all inspections will receive our full commitment and effort to address the inspection issue(s). Further, these inspections have a powerful impact in preventing workplace injuries; there is strong evidence from several recent studies that injury rates decrease in the years following an OSHA inspection at the establishment that was the focus of the inspection.


In the past, we have used the number of inspections as the primary metric to measure enforcement activity. While this metric served a useful purpose, it penalized those field managers that took on more complex inspections that required a greater amount of CSHO effort. These include inspections involving ergonomic hazards, chemical exposures, workplace violence, and PSM violations. For example, a process safety management (PSM) inspection of an oil refinery, which might take months, accounted for less weight under this system than a group of concurrent safety inspections at a construction site involving several employers. Our inspection metric that gave equal weight to all inspections may have discouraged some offices from committing necessary resources to fully complete more time-consuming, complex investigations. This was especially true in areas in which serious hazards were found for which there were no specific applicable OSHA standards, and the Agency issued citations under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause.

Under the previous system, some employers may have surmised that we were unlikely to conduct an inspection looking at ergonomic hazards, or exposures to chemicals for which we have no standard. In order to maximize deterrence, it is important for employers to know that we may conduct inspections and issue citations for any sort of serious hazard, whether or not we have a specific applicable standard. This will better encourage employers to abate hazards before an OSHA inspection and, more importantly, before a worker gets hurt.

This new system underscores the importance of the resource-intensive enforcement activity that is focused on some of the most hazardous work place issues such as ergonomics, heat, chemical exposures, workplace violence and process safety management. However, the new system will not require modification to the existing CSHO performance management system.

As noted above, one of the key metrics historically used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Agency for many years has been the total number of inspections conducted. This metric has not taken into account the wide array of resource intensive inspections performed by the Agency. In Fiscal Year 2013, at my direction, a workgroup under the leadership on Nick Walters assembled, discussed, and explored the development of a weighting system that accounts for the different amounts of time and resources required by different types of safety and health enforcement activities. I want to recognize Nick and the workgroup for creating a truly outstanding approach. The workgroup devised a weighting system to allow the Agency to more accurately measure and assign limited resources required to perform various impactful enforcement related activities. In order to evaluate and benchmark the weighting system, the workgroup calculated the distribution of inspections under the old system in parallel with OSHA’s other key metrics for two fiscal years now.

The unique weighting system assigns a value to specific categories of inspections / investigations. The value is known as an Enforcement Unit (EU) and all inspections receive an EU value of at least one. However, these specific categories receive the following EU values:

  1. Federal Agency Inspections - 2 EUs
  2. Process Safety Management Inspections - 7 EUs
  3. Combustible Dust Inspections - 2 EUs
  4. Ergonomic Hazard Inspections - 5 EUs
  5. Heat  Hazard Inspections - 4 EUs
  6. Non-PEL Exposure Hazard Inspections - 3 EUs
  7. Workplace Violence Hazard Inspections - 3 EUs
  8. Fatality / Catastrophe Inspections - 3 EUs
  9. Personal Sampling Inspections - 2 EUs
  10. Significant Cases - 8 EUs
  11. Non-formal Complaint Investigations - 1/9 EU
  12. Rapid Response Investigations - 1/9EU

Enforcement Weighting System

With FY 2016, we are no longer using the old system of counting inspections and will transition to the new one using Enforcement Units. All enforcement inspections are valuable; with this holistic approach, the Agency can incentivize impactful inspections requiring more time and resources. The FY 2016 Operating Plan for OSHA implements the Enforcement Weighting System, and includes appropriate metrics.

The EU value categories listed reemphasize OSHA’s commitment to the Department’s 2014 - 2018 Strategic Plan by supporting Strategic Objective 2.1 - Secure safe and healthy workplaces, particularly in high risk industries and 3.2 - Protect worker’s rights (employee voice in the workplace to file complaints for investigative enforcement action). In future years, this tool will greatly assist with the strategic planning process and will encourage the focus of our limited inspection resources on more complex, strategic, and impactful enforcement activity.

I want to emphasize the importance of this new approach for the Agency. With our newer inspection information system known as OIS, the application of EU values can be applied and reported without a greater level of effort from Compliance Officers if the inspections are entered correctly per OIS user guides. The values in the Enforcement Weighting System are calculated using reports of time and resources devoted to inspection or investigation activity. As you are already aware, this type of information was collected in OSHA’s legacy NCR database and is now meant to be collected in OIS’ time tracker section, see OIS Shared User Guide. The time tracker section can capture enforcement activity information for all aspects of the inspection or investigation’s life cycle and will be critical at times in the future when the Enforcement Weighting System is evaluated.

In the coming months, look for Agency procedures that will guide the Regions to evaluate their resource allocation in strategic areas and propose additional enforcement unit categories meeting regional priorities. We intend to complete a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the Enforcement Weighting System at least every five years to ensure the most accurate EU values are applied, that new inspection / investigation categories are justified, and for other management accountability purposes.

The Enforcement Weighting System will make OSHA a more effective agency and will enable us to help ensure that all workers leave work safe and healthy at the end of their shift. Thank you for your attention and assistance in implementing the new system.

cc: DAP, DEP, DCSP, DOC, Dougherty, Barab

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