Ogletree Deakins recently launched its OSHA Tracker, which compiles and filters inspection and citation data by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) region, state, city, industry, and date. Employers in Region 4—covering Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee—may find the trends and, in some cases, surprises, among OSHA’s inspections, citations, and penalties data useful in planning and implementing their workplace safety programs. Below are some examples of the information the OSHA Tracker makes available to employers for states in that region.
Region 4 State-Level Trends
From 2019 through 2021, North Carolina led in inspections per capita in Region 4, but in 2022, Kentucky had the most inspections per capita, according to the OSHA Tracker. Tennessee and Georgia exchanged ranking third as the state that received the most inspections per capita during this period. In North Carolina, OSHA conducted 12 percent fewer inspections in 2022 (2,581) than in 2021 (2,272), while conducting 22.8 percent more inspections in Florida in 2022 than in 2021. OSHA inspection activity in Mississippi during 2021 (318 inspections) and 2022 (469) resulted in the largest percentage increase—47.5 percent—among Region 4 states, and also resulted in the state overtaking South Carolina (423 inspections in 2021, 338 in 2022) to rank seventh out of the eight states by total number of inspections.
Citations dropped overall in Region 4—and nationally—during the pandemic, but increases overall across Region 4 have been a mixed bag as the pandemic has waned. In 2022, citation numbers in North Carolina (563) and Tennessee (893) were more than other states combined (834) in Region 4. No state has returned to 2019 citations levels.
Surprisingly, the inspections and citations patterns did not correlate with average penalty rankings. From 2019 through 2022, Alabama ($3,313), Florida ($3,678), Georgia ($3,251), and Mississippi ($3,22) consistently had much higher average penalties than the other four states in Region 4. In 2022, average penalties in Alabama ($2,261) and Georgia ($2,918) together were more than triple the average penalties in North Carolina ($1,147), South Carolina ($180), and Tennessee ($302) combined. It is difficult to assess whether these increases were due to an increase in serious or willful citations or more aggressive penalty assessment during and coming out of the pandemic.
Region 4 City-Level Inspection and Citation Trends
Generally, it is not surprising that from 2019 through 2022 the largest cities in a majority of these states had the highest number of inspections. Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina were the exceptions. In Alabama, Birmingham had the most inspections in all but 2022, when Mobile had the most; Gulfport on the Mississippi gulf coast supplanted Jackson in 2020 and 2022; and after a two-year deviation after Columbia had the most inspections in South Carolina in 2019, the focus returned to the state capital in 2022.
An examination of pre-pandemic (2018-2019) and post-pandemic (2021-2022) “Top 10” data from the OSHA Tracker reveals which cities took the brunt of attention in Region 4. Charlotte, North Carolina, led in inspections and citations for both periods of time. Three other North Carolina cities consistently made the Top 10 in inspections and citations for 2018-2019 and 2021-2022—Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. Nashville, Tennessee, found itself in the Top 10 in inspections and citations in each period as well.
Inspections did not correlate into citations in other Top 10 cities. Second in inspections during the pre- and post-pandemic periods, Jacksonville, Florida, was not in the Top 10 for citations. The same held true for Tampa, Florida, when it was in the Top 10 pre-pandemic, but not during 2021-2022. Atlanta, Georgia—fourth in inspections pre- and post-pandemic—was not in the Top 10 for citations in either period. Conversely, the Tennessee cities of Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga were not in the Top 10 for inspections but were Top 10 cities for citations pre- and post-pandemic. Louisville, Kentucky, was not a member of the Top 10 for inspections or citations pre-pandemic, but found itself in the Top 10 for both post-pandemic.
Industry Trends in Region 4: 2021-2022
The OSHA Tracker allows searches for specific industries, as demonstrated by the automobile manufacturing, healthcare, and agricultural industries.
Automobile manufacturing facilities. In a region where automobile manufacturing is a prominent industry, a search for 2021-2022 reveals inspections of such manufacturers in all but Florida and North Carolina, but with citations only in Alabama, with machine guarding – types of guarding being the top standard; and Tennessee, with lock-out tag-out issues in Nashville and fall protection issues in Chattanooga.
Healthcare. The search reveals each Tennessee city in which OSHA issued a citation to a general medical and surgical hospital and the top standard cited. In Memphis, e.g., OSHA issued ten citations to hospitals during 2021-2022, and blood-borne pathogen – medical records was the top standard cited.
Agriculture. Interestingly, North Carolina’s hog and pig farming industry received five citations from 2018 through 2020, but escaped citations in the inspections OSHA conducted in 2021 and 2022.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to enhance the OSHA Tracker tool for employers. National and multistate employers can view and compare data by OSHA region, state, and city. Other employers may find value in filtering the data to uncover the top citations for their industries and using the information for risk management and safety planning.