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On April 30, 2009, the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on “Improving OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program.” OSHA implemented its enhanced enforcement program (EEP) in 2003 to identify employers with poor compliance records and target them for heightened scrutiny, including follow-up inspections, inspections of other work sites, and more stringent settlement agreements.
The hearing focused on a recent report by the DOL’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which concluded that OSHA has failed to properly implement and enforce the EEP. Subcommittee chair Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), stated that since EEP’s implementation, “it’s clear that the EEP’s original design is flawed, and that OSHA under the Bush Administration did not even implement the program as intended.”
Elliott P. Lewis, Assistant Inspector General for Audit at the OIG discussed the EEP audit, testifying that the “overall conclusion was that OSHA did not always properly identify and conduct EEP inspections.” The audit found that in 97 percent of the EEP qualifying cases sampled, OSHA did not comply with the requirements of the program. Lewis identified a 2008 revised EEP directive as having reduced the number of qualifying cases by incorporating a qualifying history component in identifying which employers to target.
Jordan Barab, Acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA, testified that OSHA has established an EEP Revision Task Force to design a new program, preliminary titled the Severe Violators Inspection Program (SVIP). Barab explained that “SVIP will be a comprehensive revision of the existing EEP, focusing more on large companies and less on small businesses.” Barab also announced that OSHA is suspending the previous administration’s practice of establishing goals for new Voluntary Protection Program sites and alliances.
Jason C. Schwartz, an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP and member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Labor Relations Committee, testified on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While the Chamber disagreed with certain aspects of the OIG report, Schwartz argued that more resources should be directed to EEP and less towards OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting inspection program, which targets workplaces that have reported the highest injury and illness rates, because “it often targets conscientious employers who report even minor workplace related injuries.”
Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Coordinator at Change to Win, testified that “there appears to be a growing pattern of large corporations ignoring or avoiding their obligations to assure a safe workplace,” and argued for expanded investigatory capacity, company reporting requirements, and stronger criminal sanctions, such as those included in the recently introduced Protecting America’s Workers Act (H.R. 2067).