OSHA’s Role In The Safety Of The American Worker
Employees Removed from Excavation Site Minutes Before Collapse
OSHA's role in the life of the American worker was exhibited once again when, at 10 a.m. on the morning of June 6 in Brooklyn, N.Y., OSHA compliance safety and health officer Bob Stewart requested that six construction employees be removed from a 22-foot deep excavation due to the hazardous 10-ton concrete abutment hanging above it. Fifteen minutes later, the overhang collapsed and fell, landing in the exact spot in which the employees had been working. Stewart is a safety specialist assigned to OSHA's Manhattan Area Office in New York. OSHA's mission is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.
Workers Removed From Construction Site Minutes Before Roof Collapse
Three workers were removed from a Cleveland-area construction project within minutes of a roof collapse on April 10 by OSHA Compliance Officer Joe Schwarz of OSHA's Cleveland Area Office and Medina County Building Inspector Art Verdoorn. In response to an anonymous complaint to both organizations, the men coincidentally made a surprise visit to the construction site of a preschool on Normandy Park Rd. The exterior walls were up and half the roof was on, but the structure was not braced properly. Some workers were on the high beams and some inside. The building inspector, with Schwarz's concurrence, issued a stop-work order, and ordered the workers removed just before the roof fell in and walls collapsed.
OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs.
The Public We Serve
Nearly every working man and woman in the nation comes under OSHA's jurisdiction (with some exceptions such as miners, transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed). Other users and recipients of OSHA services include: occupational safety and health professionals, the academic community, lawyers, journalists, and personnel of other government entities.
Service Improvement Plan
OSHA is determined to use its limited resources effectively to stimulate management commitment and employee participation in comprehensive workplace safety and health programs.
Surveying Our Public
At OSHA, we are dedicated to improving the quality of our efforts and know that to be successful we must become an agency that is driven by commitment to public service. The first step is for OSHA to listen and respond to its customers. Accordingly, we conducted a survey to learn more about what employers and employees think of OSHA's services.
Because workplace inspections are one of OSHA's principal activities and because voluntary efforts to improve working conditions ultimately depend on strong enforcement, our survey focused primarily on the inspection process. We asked a random sample of employees and employers who had recently experienced an OSHA inspection what they thought of the inspection in particular, and of OSHA's standards and educational and other assistance activities in general.
We based OSHA's new standards for public service on what we learned from the survey, from meetings with employee and employer groups, and from focus group discussions with workers from many plants and industries across the country.
Our public service improvement program will be an ongoing one. We will continue to gather information on the quality of our performance in delivering services in areas not included in this year's survey, particularly in the construction sector. Next year, too, we plan to learn more about public response to our assistance and consultation programs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration aims to ensure employee safety and health in the United States by working with employers and employees to create better working environments. Since its inception in 1971, OSHA has helped to cut workplace fatalities by more than 60 percent and occupational injury and illness rates by 40 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has increased from 56 million employees at 3.5 million worksites to more than 135 million employees at 8.9 million sites.
In Fiscal Year 2007, OSHA has 2,150 employees, including 1,100 inspectors. The agency's appropriation is $486.9 million.
Under the current administration, OSHA is focusing on three strategies: 1) strong, fair and effective enforcement; 2) outreach, education and compliance assistance; and 3) partnerships and cooperative programs.
Strong, Fair, and Effective Enforcement
A strong, fair and effective enforcement program establishes the foundation for OSHA's efforts to protect the safety and health of the nation's working men and women. OSHA seeks to assist the majority of employers who want to do the right thing while focusing its enforcement resources on sites in more hazardous industries -- especially those with high injury and illness rates. Less than 1 percent of inspections -- about 467 (FY 2006) -- came under the agency's Enhanced Enforcement Program, designed to address employers who repeatedly and willfully violate the law. At the same time, injuries and illnesses continue to decline.
Outreach, Education, and Compliance Assistance
Outreach, education and compliance assistance enable OSHA to play a vital role in preventing on-the-job injuries and illnesses. OSHA offers an extensive Web site at www.osha.gov that includes a special section devoted to small businesses as well as interactive eTools to help employers and employees address specific hazards and prevent injuries. In FY 2006, 80 million visitors logged onto OSHA's Web site.
The agency provides a variety of publications in print and online. In addition, workplace safety and health information or assistance for employees is available during business hours through OSHA's call center at 1-800-321-OSHA. The hotline remains open 24 hours a day for fatality and accident reporting during non-business hours.
OSHA strives to reach all employers and employees, including those who do not speak English as a first language. The agency maintains a Spanish Web page, and Spanish-speaking operators can be reached at the OSHA national call center during business hours. Various publications, training materials and videos are available in Spanish, and OSHA continues to issue new publications. Many regional and area offices also offer information in other languages such as Japanese, Korean and Polish.
Free workplace consultations are available in every state to small businesses that want on-site help establishing safety and health programs and identifying and correcting workplace hazards. In addition, OSHA has a network of more than 70 Compliance Assistance Specialists in local offices available to provide employers and employees with tailored information and training.
OSHA's Alliance Program enables employers, labor unions, trade or professional groups, government agencies, and educational institutions that share an interest in workplace safety and health to collaborate with OSHA to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. A signed formal agreement between OSHA and the organization provides goals addressing training and education, outreach and communication and promoting the national dialogue on workplace safety and health.
In the Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA enters into long-term cooperative relationships with groups of employers, employees, employee representatives and, at times, other stakeholders to improve workplace safety and health. These partnerships focus on safety and health programs and include enforcement and outreach and training components. Written agreements outline efforts to eliminate serious hazards and provide ways to measure the effectiveness of a safety and health program.
The Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program is designed to provide incentives and support to employers to develop, implement and continuously improve effective safety and health programs at their worksite(s). SHARP provides recognition for employers who demonstrate exemplary achievements in workplace safety and health.
The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), OSHA's premier partnership, continues to pay big dividends by recognizing safety and health excellence. Today VPP worksites save millions each year because their injury and illness rates are more than 50 percent below the averages for their industries.
Employee Injuries/Illnesses/Fatalities for 2005 and 2006
In 2005, occupational injury and illness rates declined again to 4.6 cases per 100 employees, with 4.2 million injuries and illnesses among private sector firms. Approximately 33 percent of work-related injuries occurred in goods-producing industries and 67 percent in services.
There were 5,703 employee deaths in 2006, a slight decrease from the 2005 total of 5,734. The fatality rate of 3.9 deaths per 100,000 employees was down slightly from a rate of 4.0 in 2005. Fatalities related to highway incidents and homicides increased, while deaths related to falls decreased.
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210