The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected approximately 1,000 fewer workplaces in the last three months of 2001 compared to the same three-month period in the previous year.
There was otherwise little change in the total number of inspections and in the standards most frequently cited when 2001 is compared to 2000 (see chart). Once again, Hazard Communication, 1910.1200(e)(1) was the most frequently cited OSHA standard.
The decline in inspections during the final three months of 2001 was not altogether unexpected. OSHA sent compliance officers (COs) from around the country to assist in the rescue and recovery effort after the terrorist attacks on New York City (NYC). It seemed plausible that with so many COs pulled out of their normal routine, total inspections ought to decline during the extraordinary quarter.
In fact there were actually 300 more federal inspections during the period. State plan states accounted for the decline in the numbers, with the bulk of the drop coming from states in Region Five. But it does not appear that assisting NYC had much effect on inspection activity in these states.
In Michigan there were 503 fewer inspections in the final quarter of calendar year 2001 when compared to the previous year, and the state sent no one to NYC during the period.
A spokesperson for the state of Minnesota, another state plan state in the region, also said that a decline in the number of inspectors, plus a strike, accounted for the drop in inspection numbers.
"We''ve had more turnover among our inspectors," explained Kalmin Smith, deputy director of Michigan''s Dept. of Consumer and Industry Services. Smith said he had not been aware of the steep fall-off in Michigan''s inspections until asked by OH. "We''re going to do a closer review on that now," he added.
by James Nash