The Department of Labor (DOL) reported making progress in achieving its goal of reducing workplace injuries and fatalities in 2000, according to a General Accounting Office report released last month.
The reduction of injuries and deaths is one of several measurable goals established by DOL to comply with a 1993 law that directs federal agencies such as OSHA to adopt methods of measuring whether or not their regulations and programs were successful.
The department reported that it met four of the six goals reviewed by GAO and substantially achieved another goal.
In several cases, the goal was exceeded. For example, since fiscal year 1995, injury and illness rates declined by 20 percent in almost 68,000 workplaces where OSHA intervened through efforts such as inspections, exceeding the target goal of 50,000 workplaces.
However, unlike last year, OSHA did not meet its fiscal year 2000 goal to reduce fatalities in the construction industry, according to the GAO report.
The agency offered a "plausible explanation for why external factors may have contributed to this shortfall -- demand for more construction workers in a booming economy that likely resulted in a workforce with less experience combined with an increased pace and volume of work."
DOL said it has implemented clear strategies that could help achieve the goal in the coming year, such as providing grants to develop, conduct and expand safety and health training and partnering with local contractor organizations to raise safety awareness and bring training to Spanish-speaking contractors.
The department''s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) also met the challenge to reduce nonfatal mining injuries, but fell short of reducing mining fatalities below the targeted 5-year average of 89 fatalities.
There were a total of 89 mining fatalities for fiscal year 2000, the report said.
by Virginia Foran