Key findings

  • Since 2000, at least 80 workers have died at “model workplaces” OSHA considers the nation’s safest, and which it exempts from some inspections. In 47 of these cases, inspectors found serious safety violations and, sometimes, tragedies that could have been averted.
  • Even when workers die and inspectors find safety violations, “model workplaces” often face minimal consequences and retain the special designation. At least 65 percent of workplaces where a fatal accident occurred remain in the “Voluntary Protection Programs” today.
  • Though OSHA has targeted dangerous industries for special enforcement programs, “model workplaces” are exempt from even these inspections.  Over four years, at least seven people have died in one of these hazardous industries facing added scrutiny: oil refining.
  • Two arms of OSHA — one that elicits cooperation with industry, the other that enforces the law — sometimes reach strikingly different conclusions about the same workplace, highlighting a fundamental tension within the agency charged with protecting the nation’s workers.
  • Some deaths are missing from an OSHA database meant to track fatal accidents at "model workplaces." Missing entirely are fatalities at sites overseen by regulators in 21 states that run their own versions of the federal program.