Improving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ability to protect U.S. workers from workplace risks

The Foundation's program, Public Health Law Research: Making the Case for Laws That Improve Health, was designed to build the evidence for public health law and policy, translate research findings into practical tools to increase the support for and use of law by policy makers and public health practitioners, and to translate findings to other fields and venues to improve and protect health.Despite the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) expenditure of billions of dollars since 1970 writing and enforcing standards, millions of U.S. workers still face odds of greater than 1 in 100 that their job will cause or accelerate their death. [In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency has had considerable success reducing to 1 in 10,000 or less the chance that environmental pollution will cause the death of a U.S. citizen born today.] During this time, OSHA has not changed its strategy for deploying its limited enforcement resources, and continues to advocate primarily for larger budgets and higher penalties -- "brute force" improvements that differ from the transformative approaches that other federal and local agencies have used to become highly efficient and proactive protectors. This two-part study should enable OSHA to locate workplaces most likely to be violating existing regulations and exposing employees to unacceptable safety risks and/or elevated concentrations of toxic substances. The algorithms for this study will also comply with the key Supreme Court decision (Marshall v. Barlow's, Inc., 436 U.S. 307 (1978)) which requires OSHA to select worksites for inspection through a "neutral criterion." By developing "intelligent government" systems, this project will inform policy changes that environmental, food-safety, consumer-protection, transportation-safety, and other public agencies can adapt to their own crucial public health missions. Although this project is primarily designed to improve the effectiveness of traditional enforcement, OSHA's educational and partnership programs also depend on its ability to ascertain which employers most need to improve workplace conditions. Deliverables include research papers, models and computer code.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $449,914.00

Awarded on: 10/26/2010

Time frame: 11/15/2010 - 11/14/2013

Grant Number: 68398


University of Pennsylvania Law School

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, 19104-6204


Cary Coglianese
Project Director


Adam Menasha Finkel
Project Director