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DOL OIG publishes list of planned audits for OSHA, MSHA

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Washington — OSHA’s complaint inspections, Severe Violator Enforcement Program activities, Whistleblower Protection Programs and administration of rules are all intended to undergo evaluation this year by the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

DOL OIG outlines its fiscal year 2020 audit plans for OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and other agencies in a work plan released Oct. 30, stating it will conduct or continue discretionary audits.

Discretionary audits are conducted with funds left over after mandatory audits – those required by law or regulation – have been completed. “We decide which discretionary audits to conduct based on risk and potential impact on DOL’s mission and goals,” the work plan states.

Regarding complaint inspections, the audit “will focus on the extent OSHA has used complainant and witness testimony” during the process. The work plan notes that the agency conducts around 9,000 annual inspections stemming from complaints and issues citations about 24% of the time. OSHA compliance safety and health officers are not required to interview complainants during those inspections.

The SVEP-focused audit is a follow-up to a 2009 DOL OIG report and will determine whether OSHA “has made changes to improve enforcement activities related to employers who demonstrated indifference to their workplace safety responsibilities.” The report showed that in 97% of sampled cases, OSHA “did not identify all egregious employers and did not perform sufficient inspections and related enforcement.” In FY 2009, “egregious workplace safety violators” totaled 654.

The current whistleblower audit is a sampling from approximately 900 retaliation complaints made from FY 2011 to FY 2018 in the San Francisco region, and whether those complaints were investigated appropriately. Additionally, the ongoing rulemaking audit stems from “concerns about recently finalized rules that appear to violate” the Administrative Procedure Act and other executive orders.

Planned audits for MSHA

DOL OIG’s four planned audits for MSHA include one, which is already in progress, concerning whether agency citations and orders were “appropriately wrote, terminated, modified, collected or vacated.” MSHA vacated more than 7,600 of its 453,000-plus citations and orders from FY 2013 to FY 2016.

 

DOL OIG also will look into miners’ exposure to respirable silica – a potential contributor to the resurgence in black lung disease – and mine rescue response plans.

Another planned audit is intended to examine why MSHA has not placed any mines in Pattern of Violations status since FY 2014. Since 2010, the agency has issued more than 31,000 “significant and substantial” violations, 30 “potential” POV notices and seven POV notices. “This audit will focus on the extent to which MSHA has exercised its POV authority and the impact of this authority on addressing significant and substantial violations,” the work plan states.

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