A Look at the Decline in Workplace Safety Inspections
Workers face many different risks at their job sites, and many of the workplace safety risks create a chance of serious or even fatal injuries. A Colorado Springs workers' compensation attorney can provide assistance to workers who sustain injuries at work or to family members of workers who lose their lives. While workers are entitled to benefits after any work injury caused by their job duties, regardless of whether there were safety violations or not, preventing violations goes a long way towards protecting employees from being victimized by preventable harms.
Unfortunately, there are now fewer safeguards in place to ensure that conditions on worksites are not unsafe. The problem is, the number of federal workplace safety inspections has fallen, which means that inspectors are not going into worksites as often so they can catch problems that arise before those problems potentially result in harm being done.
Fewer Inspectors Mean Unsafe Worksites
NBC reported on the reduction in the number of workplace safety inspections taking place. The reason why inspections are falling is that inspectors are leaving but are not being replaced, which means there are fewer people to perform inspections.
From January 2017 and going forward throughout the year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had lost 40 inspectors at the federal level through attrition. As of October 2, OSHA had not made any new hires to fill the vacancies created by those departing workers. The departing inspectors who were not replaced made up a total of four percent of the entire federal inspection workforce. As a result of their departure and the lack of new hires, the total number of federal OSHA inspectors had fallen below 1,000 by early October.
Reduced staffing at OSHA not only means that there are fewer inspectors to go into worksites, but it also makes it more difficult for the current inspectors and other employees to do their jobs properly because they are shorthanded. It is small regional offices, which have long been short-handed, that are likely to be most impacted by the shortage of federal inspectors.
A former head of OSHA indicated that the result of this is “greater pressure to quickly reach a settlement with the employer, which often means reduced fines.” If employers do not face substantial penalties for violating OSHA rules and regulations, this reduces the incentive to comply with safety mandates that can sometimes be costly.
The former head of OSHA also indicated that the reduction in the number of inspectors has essentially made “OSHA invisible.” The consequence of this is that employers are also less likely to comply with workplace safety rules. He commented “If employers don't think OSHA will come, workers are much more likely to be hurt.”
Workers do have rights, even with the reduction in federal inspectors. If there are safety violations, workers can make complaints and should be protected from retaliation. And, workers have the right to pursue a claim for benefits if they do sustain injuries. A Colorado Springs workers' compensation attorney can provide help in taking action if a worker is harmed on-the-job.