Employers who repeatedly defy OSHA regulations will receive more inspections and face possible court-ordered compliance, as part of a new "get tough" policy announced by OSHA.

OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Policy will focus on employers who receive "high gravity" citations. High gravity citations, based on the potential to inflict the most serious injuries or death, are issued at an inspector's discretion and must be approved by both area office directors and regional administrators.

The policy focuses on five specific areas that will be strengthened: 1) follow-up inspections; 2) programmed inspections; 3) public awareness; 4) settlements; and 5) federal court enforcement.


  • On-site follow-up inspections will be conducted at all establishments that received an OSHA citation with "high gravity willful violations, multiple high gravity serious violations, repeat violations at the originating establishment, failure-to-abate notices, or a serious or willful violation related to a fatality."

  • For high gravity violations, OSHA will mail a copy of the citation and notification of penalties to the employer's Corporate headquarters.

  • In high gravity violation settlement agreements, employers will be required to hire consultants to develop a process to change the safety and health culture in the facility.

  • If necessary, OSHA will ask federal courts of appeal for orders summarily enforcing the citations under Section 11(b) of the OSH Act. This includes citations that have been settled or have otherwise become final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

  • In cases in which an 11(b) order has been entered and the employer remains noncompliant, OSHA will seek contempt of court sanctions.

  • Inspectors will be required to link more thoroughly incidents at all work sites owned by the same "overall corporate entity."

    The policy changes were prompted by reports in The New York Times about a Birmingham, Ala., company that has one of the worst safety records in the country. McWane, Inc., which makes cast-iron sewer and water pipes, employs 5,000 workers in a dozen plants across the country operating under different names. The newspaper reported that the company had been cited for more than 400 safety violations since 1995, during which nine workers were killed - three because of deliberate safety violations, OSHA inspectors found. At least 4,600 injuries occurred.