OSHA introduces new enforcement weighting system

OSHA introduces new enforcement weighting system

OSHA says the system will encourage the appropriate allocation of resources to support its goal of promoting safe and healthy workplaces.

September 30, 2019

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced it recently implemented the OSHA Weighting System (OWS) for fiscal year (FY) 2020. 

OSHA says OWS will encourage the appropriate allocation of resources to support OSHA’s balanced approach of promoting safe and healthy workplaces. It will also continue to develop and support a management system that focuses enforcement activities on critical and strategic areas where the agency’s efforts can have the most impact. 

Under the current enforcement weighting system, OSHA weights certain inspections based on the time taken to complete the inspection or, in some cases, the impact of the inspection on workplace safety and health. OWS recognizes that time is not the only factor to assess when considering the potential impact of an inspection. Other factors - such as types of hazards inspected and abated and effective targeting - also influence the impact on workplace safety and health. The new system adds enforcement initiatives, such as the site-specific targeting, to the weighting system.

OWS replaces the current enforcement weighting system initiated in FY 2015. The new system is based on an evaluation of the existing criteria and a working group’s recommendations regarding improvements to the existing weighting system. OSHA has been running the new weighting system currently to confirm data integrity.  

Before OSHA's initial weighting system was in place, the organization used the number of inspections as the primary metric to measure enforcement activity, which it says penalized field managers who took on more complex inspections that required a greater amount of effort. For example, a process safety management inspection of an oil refinery, which might take months, accounted for less weight under this system than a group of concurrent safety inspections at a construction site involving several employers. 

The weighting system that rolled out in 2015 assigns a value to specific categories of inspections and investigations. The value is known as an enforcement unit, (EU) and all inspections receive an EU value of at least one.

The system will continue to weight inspections but will do so based on other factors, including agency priorities and the impact of inspections, rather than simply on a time-weighted basis. OSHA says the new OWS approach reinforces its goal of a balanced approach to occupational safety and health (i.e., strong and fair enforcement, compliance assistance and recognition) and will incorporate the three major work elements performed by the field: enforcement activity, essential enforcement support functions (e.g., severe injury reporting and complaint resolution), and compliance assistance efforts. 

OWS will become effective Oct. 1, 2019.