Editor’s Blog: We Stand, Uh, Revised

osha-logo_200 Don't count your inspections before they show up -- even if it's 90+ days and counting.

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Not quite two months ago – May 16 – I wrote up a report for our “Eye on OSHA” series about the federal workplace-safety agency and its activities in this year’s first quarter. After all, by mid-May, the online database of national inspections should be fairly complete for January through March.

em hed shot 2 120Emerson SchwartzkopfA federal Department of Labor press release in late June about fines totaling more than $40,000 for a stone shop, based on an inspection this February, looked odd; the review of OSHA inspections in May didn’t show any fines that large. And, the inspection report failed to show any major violations on silica air contaminants (as noted in the news release) when I looked at it last week.

However, I started looking at other reports filed during 1Q 2011, and something didn’t seem to add up. After a case-by-case review, I found the problem; by reviewing records in mid-May, some six weeks after the end of the first quarter, I’d started counting way too early.

It turns out that the inspection-report total for 2011’s first three months grew by slightly more than half – from 42 I counted in May, the current tally rose to 64. The same happened with most of the categories I reviewed, from actual inspections to total violations cited.

Even with the later arrival of inspection reports, the main theme of the first-quarter report – OSHA inspections aren’t as numerous in 2011 – still holds true. The amended total of 64 reports still falls far short of the 118 filed in January-March 2010.

While double-checking the numbers, I reviewed each inspection report (yes, all 182 from both years, and it’s no picnic) for violations involving silica as an air contaminant. In January-March 2011, OSHA noted silica problems at 11 shops with 48 total exposures. For the first three months of this year, the agency cited silica at three shops, with 14 total exposures.

That’s, of course, a current tally. The final figures, as I’ve learned, may not be a match ... whenever they come in.

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