On Safety

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The importance of effectiveness

December 1, 2015
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OSHA officials are fond of pointing to studies that find agency inspections lead to improved safety and health, but a new report suggests OSHA needs to do more.

In the November report, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General said OSHA lacks the means to measure its own effectiveness.

“While OSHA cites several studies that have shown a positive impact from OSHA inspections, the agency needs to continue its efforts to develop metrics that reflect the impact of its enforcement efforts on improving workplace safety and health,” the report states.

This isn’t new. OIG in 2014 pointed out the need for the agency to define and measure effectiveness. And three years before that, an OIG official testified before a House subcommittee that OSHA cannot say what effect the agency has.

This problem also trickles down to State Plan states, which are required by law to be “as effective as” federal OSHA. But those state agencies have complained for years about a lack of a definition for “as effective as.” More than four years ago, OIG urged the federal agency to define the phrase.

This may all seem silly – do we really need to define “effective”? – but it’s incredibly important. We as taxpayers spend half a billion dollars on a federal agency tasked with ensuring workers are protected. That agency should define what it means to be effective, and have a way to measure that effectiveness. Otherwise, how do we really know a difference is being made?

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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