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.
March 20, 2000
Mr. Mark Madigan
Spring, TX 77379
Thank you for your November 7, 1999 letter to Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Your letter was forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs (DCP). As you are a Safety Superintendent for oil/gas well drilling rigs, you probably already know that OSHA has primary regulatory responsibility for the safety and health of workers at these well sites. We apologize for the delay in our response.
First, let me commend you for your dedication and enthusiasm for the safety and health of employees who work in the oil and gas industry. Even though the rate of lost-time injuries in the United States has been declining over the last years, I agree with you that the "safety costs," both in terms of human suffering and company financial burdens, remain too great. I believe that the decline in the rate of lost-time injuries is attributable to the safety and health stakeholders: employers, employees, and safety and health professionals such as yourself.
Your safety, health, and environmental program, Thought's, Hazardous, Idea's, Nurture, Knowledge (THINK), based on your lost-time accident data, appears to be an effectively implemented program. Your use of job safety analyses and various program management philosophies is consistent with the core elements of OSHA's draft proposed safety and health program rule, 29 CFR 1900.1 ( http://www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/safetyhealth/nshp.html). These core elements include:
Management leadership and employee participation;
Hazard identification and assessment;
Hazard prevention and control;
Information and training; and
Evaluation of program effectiveness.
While you state that safety incentives, "attaboys" as you refer to them (your samples are enclosed), have offered positive results in terms of lost-time accidents, OSHA neither approves nor disapproves the design or the effectiveness of safety incentive programs. However, we do not look favorably on safety incentive programs, which encourage under reporting of workplace injuries.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's web-site at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs Assistance