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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
September 22, 1993
Mr. Greg A. Barris
P.O. Box 6035
Boise, Idaho 83707
Dear Mr. Barris:
Thank you for your letter of August 16, in which you described the design and development of the FLX pit cover and your concerns regarding OSHA's lack of inspections in certain workplaces.
Because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has authority to inspect more than six million workplaces, with approximately 900 compliance officers, OSHA has established a system of inspection priorities that are designed to ensure that maximum feasible protection is provided and the worst situations are inspected first.
Top priority in OSHA's system for conducting inspections is responding to reports of imminent danger situations. Second priority is given to investigation of fatalities and catastrophes resulting in hospitalization of [three] or more employees. Third priority is given to employee complaints of alleged violation of standards or of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions.
Next in priority are programmed, or planned, inspections aimed at specific high-hazard industries or occupations. Industries are selected for inspection on the basis of factors such as the death, injury and illness incidence rate, and employee exposure to toxic substances. Special emphasis may be local or national in scope, depending on the distribution of the workplaces involved. States with OSHA approved occupational safety and health programs may use somewhat different systems to identify high-hazard industries for inspection within their states.
In addition to the initial inspection, OSHA's compliance officers must also conduct follow-up and monitoring inspections to ensure that hazards are being corrected and employees are being protected. Therefore, as you can see, OSHA's priority system for conducting inspections is designed to distribute available OSHA resources as effectively as possible to protect the working men and women of this country.
Some of the facilities referred to in your letter are not within OSHA jurisdiction. OSHA has no jurisdiction over local, county, and state government employees. States that have OSHA approved programs, however, must cover all public sector employees within the state.
We appreciate your comments and your interest in occupational safety and health.
Roger A. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs