Enforcement is one of three areas OSHA is focusing on in its efforts to encourage continual improvement in workplace safety and health, acting OSHA Administrator Jonathan Snare said at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) annual Safety 2005 Conference in New Orleans earlier this week.

OSHA is projecting 37,700 inspections for 2005, Snare said, and that in 2004 they exceeded their target of completing 39,167 inspections. As for workplace violations, Snare said OSHA had identified 83,539 violations in 2003, 86,708 in 2004 and 45,545 so far in 2005.

The top violations for general industry were for hazard communication, respirators, lockout/tagout, machine guarding/general requirements and powered industrial trucks.

Scaffolding, fall protection, electrical/equipment, excavations/requirements for protective systems and general safety provisions were the most frequent violations for the construction industry.

Snare also noted OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program, which “zeroes in on employers with the gravest violations who have failed to take their safety and health responsibilities seriously.” Of the 313 cases last year, 55 percent involved construction where fatalities with high gravity violations occurred, Snare said. Of the rest, about half were in manufacturing and the rest were in other industries.

Recordable injury and illness rates, said Snare, have declined 7.1 percent from 2002 to 2003 and lost-workday rates have declined 7.7 percent from 2002 to 2003; both of these rates are at the lowest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting workplace fatality statistics in the 1970s. Snare noted that total fatalities have declined six percent from 2001 to 2003.

To continue this trend OSHA will be focusing on seven industries: landscaping, oil and gas field services, fruit and vegetable processing, concrete and concrete products, steel works, ship building and repair, and warehousing.