OSHA inspectors at all-time low; workplace injury rate stagnant

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, created in 1971, is charged with preventing worker injuries, work-related deaths and workplace accidents. Since OSHA’s inception, its efforts have reduced injuries by more than 40 percent and workplace deaths by more than 60 percent. When an injury or death is reported, OSHA usually sends inspectors to the worksite to investigate the accident. If the employer is found negligent, OSHA can impose fines based on the severity of the violation and previous violations.

OSHA’s top inspection priorities are worksites where dangers are about to happen or have happened, causing three or more workers to go to the hospital. Statistics demonstrate, however, that the number of inspectors per worker has fallen dramatically since the 1970s-from more than 12 inspectors for every 1 million workers in 1975, the number is now down to 6.9 per million in 2013. In fact, it would probably take federal OSHA inspectors more than 130 years to visit every company under its jurisdiction even once.

Despite these startling figures, North Carolina workers may be surprised to hear that workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths have been declining across the country, even though the rate of decrease has diminished over time. In dangerous occupations such as construction, mining, and oil and gas extraction, however, the workplace accident and fatality rate is still high. Despite improvements, a staggering 13 people across the country die every day from injuries sustained on the job.

Those employees who get hurt on the job may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. Under the state workers’ compensation system, injured workers are entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and disability. If a worker is killed on the job, surviving family members can recover workers’ compensation death benefits.

Source: Huffington Post, “The state of America’s deadly jobs, in 9 charts,” Alissa Scheller, May 16, 2014

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