First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.
Washington — The Department of Labor Office of Inspector General intends to conduct an audit of the number and types of inspections OSHA is using to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as OSHA’s plans to address future pandemics, according to a fiscal year 2021 audit work plan released Nov. 2.
DOL OIG states that “OSHA has reduced its number of inspections and increased its number of non-formal complaint investigations.” OSHA was named in a lawsuit filed by meatpacking employees in July, the document adds.
The audit is among DOL OIG’s seven OSHA-focused discretionary audits – including four related to COVID-19 – planned for FY 2021, which ends Sept. 30. Discretionary audits are conducted with funds left over after mandatory audits – those required by law or regulation – have been completed.
OIG currently is looking into the protection of OSHA inspectors’ health during the pandemic. Other planned audits concern OSHA’s collaboration with other federal agencies that conduct onsite workplace safety and health inspections, and how OSHA uses complainant interviews during inspections.
“Inspectors are not required to interview complainants at any point during the inspection process, which could result in OSHA having little interaction with complainants and witnesses during complaint inspections,” OIG states. “This audit will focus on OSHA’s use of complainant and witness testimony during a complaint inspection to ensure the complaint or referral was addressed adequately.”
Another audit in progress is a review of OSHA’s silica standards, recently amended after 13 years of research and development. The other two planned audits will examine the Severe Violator Enforcement Program and OSHA’s “lookback reviews” on its own standards, which last occurred more than a decade ago. The latter audit will include examinations into OSHA’s nearly 50-year-old ammonium nitrate standard and 30-year-old Process Safety Management Standard (1910.119).
OIG is continuing to look into the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s modification or cancellation of more than 12,300 citations and orders from the beginning of 2013 through September 2019. Two other planned MSHA-focused audits concern the agency’s efforts to address dust sampling manipulation and mine rescue response plans.
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