About the Methodology

The Center for Public Integrity’s analysis relies on data from multiple sources, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Treasury Department and the Justice Department. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Center obtained an extract of OSHA’s master database of inspection records, known as the Integrated Management Information System, or IMIS. The portion received by the Center contains information about more than 1 million workplace safety and health inspections conducted from Jan. 1, 2001, to the date in early August 2012 when the data were provided.

In analyzing both penalties initially imposed by OSHA and penalties ultimately collected, the Center used only cases considered “closed” by the agency. This excluded some recent cases in which an employer may still be contesting violations or in which OSHA, the Treasury Department or another entity is still attempting to collect a fine. When calculating penalties initially imposed, the Center included violations and their accompanying fines that were later deleted as part of settlement negotiations or the litigation process.

The Treasury Department agreed to provide data on OSHA debts collected under its cross-servicing program for the fiscal years 2006 to 2012. Collection rates were calculated using the total amount collected and the total amount referred in a given year. Data that would trace individual debts across years was not available.

Referrals of OSHA debts to the Justice Department can come from either OSHA or the Treasury Department. Data on such referrals by the Treasury Department was included in what the department provided. The Center obtained data on the cases referred by OSHA under a Freedom of Information Act request with the Justice Department. The department’s data went back only to 2008. Collections for all agencies by the Justice Department are contained in annual reports to Congress by the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service.

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