Accused of lapses in inspection processes, the OSHA “may have conducted incomplete inspections and workers may have been exposed to hazardous working conditions for an extended period of time,” according to an independent review commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor’s office. by the Inspector General.
The auditor, hired in response to a complaint to the DOL, reviewed 100 complaint and referral cases opened and closed in 2019 and 2020 and concluded that “OSHA did not consistently ensure that complaints and referrals were adequately addressed, nor did it regularly maintain hazard reduction timelines ,” according to the report.
The review “found that OSHA did not consistently involve the complainant and/or witnesses in the investigative or inspection process”; and that “OSHA has no policy requiring safety and health compliance officers to interview or otherwise involve the complainant after the complaint is filed , but that person may have important insights to ensure that alleged hazards are addressed.”
Of the 76 complaint cases reviewed, OSHA interviewed the complainant in only half of them, and in all sample cases where OSHA interviewed the complainant and/or witnesses, each person was interviewed only once, according to the report.
The auditor also “found that OSHA’s files did not contain clear reasoning as to why it did not conduct an inspection for 11 of 30 cases where a complaint or referral met the criteria for conducting an inspection” and that it “did not regularly ascertain safety and health violations from complaints and referrals were corrected in a timely manner.”
The auditor reported that OSHA lacks adequate processes and a method for determining when complainants and witnesses should be interviewed and how much they are involved.
OSHA “generally disagreed” with the auditor’s recommendations on how to improve its investigations but “agreed that it can improve its documentation, customer service and training,” according to the report.
In its response, OSHA questioned whether the sample of 100 cases was adequate to generalize deficiencies in the agency’s response to complaints.