Tuesday, December 11, 2012

GAO Report Released: Product Safety Laboratories OSHA's Accreditation Process Needs Reexamination

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, titled Product Safety Laboratories OSHA's Accreditation Process Needs Reexamination GAO-13-88 (Dec. 11, 2012). The details of the 45-page report, available here, are discussed below:

Why GAO did this study

American workers interact with many types of products that could pose risks to their safety. The NRTL program, administered by OSHA, works to support employers and workers by establishing a process for safety-testing certain equipment and other products for use in the U.S. workplace. Under this program, which is supported by user fees, OSHA accredits third-party labs as NRTLs, which then determine whether certain types of products meet safety standards. Because the availability of NRTLs is essential to ensuring that employers have timely access to products that meet safety standards, GAO was asked to examine (1) how long it takes to make accreditation decisions and the key factors that affect timeliness, and (2) the extent to which OSHA has adopted commonly used strategies for improving timeliness. GAO reviewed relevant documents and data from OSHA; interviewed OSHA officials, other NRTL stakeholders, and officials from four federal agencies that administer accreditation programs for other purposes; and reviewed information on strategies for improving timeliness from past GAO reports and other sources.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that Labor review its current structure and procedures for accrediting NRTLs and implement alternatives that would maintain effectiveness while improving timeliness. Labor agreed with the recommendations and described its plans to address them.

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