Since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1970, workplace deaths have dropped consistently. However, their efforts are not enough, according to a recent report from the agency’s Inspector General, as the agency is only reaching a fraction of the more than eight million workplaces under its purview.
Given the sheer volume of entities it must regulate, OSHA often ends up targeting those industries where it can have the highest impact. However, OSHA does not always target these industries and there was no way to confirm that their efforts were increasing safety and health across the country. In fact, North Carolina workers may not be aware that OSHA often exempts some companies from inspection if they have a good safety record, even though this is a practice that the Inspector General frowns upon.
In addition to this, the Inspector General noted that OSHA also allows companies with injury and illness rates that are higher than the industry average to remain in the Voluntary Protection Program. This raises some doubt about whether OSHA is interested in actually protecting their workers.
It is an employer’s duty to create a safe working environment for their employees, free of risks and hazards. Where they fail to do this and an employee is injured or killed, the employee or his or her surviving family can file a workers’ compensation claim. OSHA also investigates the accident to determine the cause of the accident and if the company is found negligent, it can levy fines on the company. Recently, North Carolina’s OSHA has been accused of reducing fines and being lax in implementing safety protocols, but efforts are being made to increase worker safety across the country. Injured workers should be aware of their rights in case of a workplace accident, as they may be eligible for benefits through the workers’ compensation program.
Source: The Charleston Gazette, “Obama worker-safety efforts face big challenges,” Ken Ward Jr., Dec. 26, 2013