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Published: November, 2012; Vol 9, Num 6

 

A Review:

Diving Into the Data with DOL's New Online Tool

By Scott Schneider

Each year, the Department of Labor (DOL) conducts thousands of inspections at worksites all over the country, but until now, except for DOL and its targets, useful summations of inspection outcomes have been unavailable.

Where the DOL inspected and what it found is now available on a new DOL website called Enforce Data. Due to the huge amount of information available and the simple search function, the new site is a powerful tool. It is also fun to explore. Hopefully, it can be used to better target the nation's limited Federal inspection resources to the most needed areas.

The website has a mapping function so users can look at all DOL inspections within a certain geographical area. The search function is simple and potent. Most inspections were conducted by OSHA, over four million going back to 1970. Also included are over 2.3million MSHA inspections dating to 1971 and about 150,000 inspections by the DOL Wage and Hour Division since 1985. In addition, Federal Contract Compliance data are in the database. OSHA inspection results can be searched by:

  • State
  • Industry (SIC or NAICS codes)
  • Year
  • Type of Inspection (complaint, etc.)
  • Inspection Category (safety or health)
  • Type of Violation (willful, serious)
  • Penalty
  • Company Name

Each category can filter the data and narrow the search.

A circular search wheel allows users to click on any variable and see the top categories. For example, clicking on NAICS code shows the top ten industry sectors inspected, all in construction, such as about 23,000 inspections which were in highway and bridge construction. Clicking on the highway/bridge sector bar limits the search to those 23,000 inspections. Clicking on Inspection Category shows that about 20,000 of those inspections were for safety hazards and about 3,000 for health. About 39,000 violations with over $21 million in penalties were assessed in those 20,000 safety inspections. Results of searches can be downloaded into spreadsheets for later use.

This website also has a "Lab" with an OSHA Inspection Explorer and MSHA Data Explorer to show trends over time in citations and penalties by sector.

Anyone concerned with the value and effectiveness of federal worksite inspections will discover a useful analytic tool at Enforce Data. The site is part of the DOL's effort to make its enforcement work more transparent and accessible to employers and workers alike.

[Scott Schneider is the LHSFNA's Director of Occupational Safety and Health.]