Enforcement: Contest Rate Declines Again in 2002

OSHA Administrator Henshaw believes the agency's enforcement effort should focus on changed workplaces, rather than citations and penalties. Henshaw believes this is the best way to reduce occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities and he also believes one way of measuring progress in this new approach is to reduce the contest rate of OSHA citations.

"If we've got employers who are contesting our citations, apparently either we didn't find the right thing or the employers haven't bought the concept," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw

According to this analysis, OSHA's enforcement strategy is succeeding. For the second year in a row, the contest rate of OSHA citations has declined (see chart).

But not everyone agrees that OSHA should focus on changing workplaces instead of vigorously citing employers.

It is possible that the lower contest rate could be the result of more effective targeting strategies. But could the lower contest rate also reflect a more pusillanimous approach by OSHA compliance officers and Department of Labor attorneys to hazardous worksites?

"John Henshaw has said some things about enforcement that I think are totally wrong," said Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO's health and safety director. "In fact in the reports and analyses done by OSHA, you see greater injury reduction where you have enforcement and penalties than when you just have consultation."

Ultimately, since Henshaw has said his goal is to cut occupational injuries and illnesses, answers to questions about the effectiveness of OSHA's new enforcement strategy may have to wait for the arrival of these data.

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