Seyfarth Synopsis: With a larger base of compliance officers, OSHA has significantly increased its ability to conduct on-site inspections and reorient its enforcement strategies.
OSHA’s budget was essentially flat during the Trump Administration. As health care costs increased and compliance safety and health officers retired, OSHA struggled to recruit and hire replacements. Times have changed. BNA is now reporting that the number of OSHA inspectors grew 19% in fiscal year 2022, ending several years of minimal growth or losses, according to agency data.
We had previously reported that in 2021 OSHA FY 2021 Congressional Budget Anticipates More Inspections to Come, which noted that in FY 2020 OSHA would receive an additional $12.7 million in funding that it will use to increase its Compliance Safety and Health Officer ranks by fifty from current staffing levels. That effort has now born fruit and OSHA’s staffing levels are higher now than they have been in decades.
The influx of compliance officers coincides with OSHA ratcheting up its enforcement priorities, including increasingly aggressive enforcement and increased penalties. We anticipate some growing pains as new OSHA compliance officers gain experience in enforcing the OSH Act and identifying workplace violations. Given the increase in inspectors, there is increased risk for on-site inspections. Employers should make sure that they are “inspection ready” and should work with OSHA counsel to ensure that on-site inspections are opened on a lawful basis, then limited and focused.