Trade News Release
Friday, Nov. 12, 1999
Contact: Frank Kane
OSHA SURVEY FINDS 85 PERCENT OF EMPLOYERS DO SELF-AUDITS OF SAFETY AND HEALTH CONDITIONS IN WORKPLACES
More than 85 percent of employers in a recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration survey said they conduct voluntary self-audits of safety and health conditions in their workplaces, approximately a 60 percent increase from percentages reported in a survey conducted in 1981 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Moreover, nearly 90 percent of employers surveyed in larger general industry establishments said they had conducted an inspection in the last 12 months.
"These high percentages are evidence that our policies to encourage self-inspections are working, " said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Charles N. Jeffress.
Jeffress added that the OSHA survey, which involved telephone interviews with 492 large and small employers in general industry and construction, revealed that employers conduct self- audits to:
- reduce injury and illness rates (83 percent);
- do the "right thing" (79 percent); and
- to be in compliance with OSHA regulations (79 percent).
When employers not now conducting self-inspections were asked what would encourage them to begin, they said the strongest influences would be lowering insurance costs; increasing the probability that injury and illness rates would decrease; and receiving a penalty reduction if OSHA inspected and found a violation.
Some insurance companies develop partnerships with OSHA and offer reduced premiums to employers who participate in programs to assist them in conducting self-inspections. OSHA also distributes guidance for conducting such self-audits in the form of "on-line advisors" on the Internet. Employers can find these advisors by going to the OSHA home page at http://www.osha.gov and click on "OSHA Advisors/Software."
OSHA also has asked for comments on a policy published in the Oct. 6, 1999, Federal Register, in which an employer's self-audit may be considered as evidence of good faith. This would qualify the employer for a substantial civil penalty reduction if OSHA proposes a penalty.
Written comments on the OSHA policy must be submitted on or before Dec. 6, 1999. Send two copies of the comments to OSHA Docket Office, Docket W-100, Room N-2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20210, Telephone 202-693-2350.
Copies of the policy and the news release announcing the policy can be found by going to the OSHA home page at http//www.osha.gov.
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(Editor's Note: A more detailed summary of the survey is attached to this news release.)
The text of this news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-693-1999.
OSHA CUSTOMER SURVEY: EMPLOYER SELF- INSPECTIONS
Voluntary self-audits are a major component of effective safety and health programs. They can help reveal hazardous conditions that should be corrected before accidents occur and OSHA fines are levied. Safety and health audits -- when they lead to appropriate corrective action -- can provide significant economic benefits for employers by reducing the costs that are associated with occupational injuries and illnesses. These costs include workers' compensation, medical payments, sick leave, and lost productivity. Further, voluntary safety and health audits benefit employers by identifying conditions that violate OSHA standards and by providing employers with the opportunity to fix those conditions prior to an OSHA inspection.
Self-Inspection Survey Findings
The first step to improving the quality of OSHA's efforts to encourage self inspections is to listen and respond to its customers. In July, 1999, OSHA conducted a telephone survey to learn more about self-inspection practices by employers. The agency asked a representative sample of 492 employers about their workplace practices in performing workplace self-inspections and the reasons behind the practices. Employers not conducting self-inspections were asked what would encourage them to begin.
- The survey found that 85.9 percent of establishments are currently conducting safety and health inspections. The reasons most often given for those currently conducting self-inspections were:
- Reduce injury and illness rates -- 83.0 percent
- Right thing to do -- 79.3 percent
- Wanted facility to be in compliance with OSHA regulations -- 79.2 percent
The survey suggests that the rate of self-inspection has increased since the 1980's, based on a comparison with the best previous point for comparison , National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) National Occupational Exposure Survey (NOES), which was conducted from 1981 through 1983. The NIOSH study found that 53.1 percent of employers interviewed were conducting self-inspections.
OSHA policies appear to be encouraging employers to self-inspect. Of those establishments not currently self-inspecting, none reported being influenced in any way by OSHA actions or programs. The most common reason given for not self-inspecting was that they had found no hazards. Other reasons were that there were no qualified staff to conduct the self-inspection or that the employer was not currently working
In addition to estimating that 85.9 percent of establishments are conducting self-inspections, OSHA calculates that there is a 95 percent likelihood that the actual share of establishments conducting self-inspections is between 82.4 percent and 89.4 percent. The survey was designed to allow OSHA to achieve a reasonably high level of estimation accuracy cost-effectively.
The survey was also designed to generate estimates for three industry groups: construction, general industry with fewer than 20 employees and all other general industry. The percentage of establishments reporting that they performed self-inspections were: in construction -- 94.9 percent; in general industry with fewer than 20 employees -- 80.2 percent; in all other general industry -- 89.4 percent. As with other OSHA customer surveys, this survey did not cover State Plan States.
Of the 492 establishments surveyed, 41 reported never having conducted self-inspections. Most of these establishments employ fewer than 20 workers.
Employers not conducting self-inspections said the strongest inducements would be: (1) lowering insurance costs; (2) increasing the probability that injury and illness rates would decrease; and (3) receiving a penalty reduction if OSHA inspected and found a violation.
Customer Service Response
Lowering Insurance Costs. Some insurance companies in partnership with OSHA are offering reduced premiums to employers who participate in training and other activities to assist them in conducting their own self-inspections. OSHA is planning to expand partnership programs.
Increasing the Probability That Injury and Illness Rates Will Decrease. OSHA is working to distribute guidance for conducting high quality safety and health audits that will be effective in helping to identify and eliminate hazards responsible for injuries and illnesses. OSHA has a series of "on-line advisors". The newest online advisors cover hazard awareness, fire safety and lead in construction. These interactive software are designed to provide readily-available safety and health information to employers and workers. The advisors can be found by going to the OSHA home page at http://www.osha and click on "OSHA Advisors/Software."
Penalty Reduction if OSHA Finds a Violation. OSHA has asked for comments on a policy (see October 6 Federal Register) whereby an employer's response to voluntary self-audits may be considered evidence of good faith, qualifying the employer for a substantial civil penalty reduction, when OSHA proposes a penalty. The agency intends that the policy will recognize the value of voluntary self-audit programs under which employers or their agents identify and promptly correct hazardous conditions . Written comments must be submitted on or before December 6, 1999. Send two copies of the comments to: OSHA Docket Office, Docket W-100,
Room N-2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20210, Telephone: 202-693-2350. For electronic copies of the policy, contact OSHA's home page at http://www.osha.gov and click on "Federal Register."
OSHA is seeking to provide encouragement and incentives to improve, increase and enhance employers' self-inspections. Any comments regarding additional ideas for OSHA to encourage self-inspections may be directed to: John Martonik, Director, Office of Program Audits and Evaluations, OSHA, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.