Review committees State programs

GAO: Staffing shortfalls plague state-run OSHA programs

Washington – State-run OSHA programs face staffing challenges in part because of budget cuts, and federal OSHA should provide better access to training and deadlines for taking over troubled state programs, concludes a new report (.pdf file) from the Government Accountability Office.

Based on a survey of the 22 state-run programs and interviews with federal and regional OSHA officials and labor and business groups, GAO identified several staffing issues. Among them: State-run programs have difficulty recruiting inspectors because of a shortage of qualified candidates, relatively low salaries and hiring freezes; and also face challenges related to training and retaining inspectors.

GAO found turnover was particularly high among safety inspectors. In nearly half of the surveyed states, at least 40 percent of safety inspectors had less than five years of job experience, while many health inspectors had more than 10 years of service.

GAO recommended that OSHA improve access to training, set time frames for taking over enforcement if states fail to address problems and document lessons learned. Additionally, GAO said, Congress should consider amending the Occupational Safety and Health Act to allow OSHA to be able to quickly intervene in state-run programs.