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OSHA to Increase Inspections

Despite an early slowdown in OSHA's worksite inspections pace, OSHA chief John Henshaw recently said he wants to boost the inspections total for all of fiscal 2002, which ends Sept. 30.

He set OSHA's federal inspections goal for fiscal 2002 at 36,400, which would be nearly 2 percent higher than fiscal 2001's total of 35,778. OSHA ended up topping its goal by 120 inspections in 2001 and was close to fiscal 2000's total of about 36,000 inspections. This inspection agenda is part of Henshaw's intention to maintain a vigorous OSHA enforcement program, while expanding the agency's efforts to help employers comply with OSHA's standards, and other more conciliatory ways to improve worker safety and health. Henshaw, and other top OSHA officials, emphasize both publicly and internally that the entire program including compliance assistance, won't work without a strong enforcement foundation.

Proposed budget cuts by the Bush administration will not affect Henshaw's plans for fiscal 2002. Henshaw also plans on more inspections in fiscal 2003 despite a 2 percent decrease in OSHA's budget as proposed by the Bush administration.

The OSHA director also said that his agency's inspection pace was held down recently by its focus on worker safety during the recovery effort at the World Trade Center in New York and dealing with bioterrism concerns. Even though inspections in the first quarter of fiscal 2002, which ended December 31, 2001, lagged well behind a 36,000 annual rate, they still reached 7,332, which was nearly 300 more than the 7,044 federal inspections in the year earlier quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2000. Seasonal issues also effect enforcement activity in December.

Citations for the latest quarter were up slightly to 17,730 from 17,685, while penalties assessed declined, to $19.1 million from $20.3 million.