The job of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to establish worker protection laws and enforce those laws in order to protect workers throughout Scranton, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Bradford, Schuykill, Lehigh, Monroe, Wyoming and Wayne counties.
In 2004, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had an inflation-adjusted budget of $554 million. In 2014, the budget for this government agency had fallen to $529 million. A workers' compensation lawyer knows that OSHA is understaffed and that budget cuts only serve to make things much worse. When OSHA can't do its job and inspect workplaces, potentially dangerous conditions persist and employers have less incentive to make sure that their workers are safe.
OSHA Cuts Impact Workplace Safety
The Journal News provided information from one area OSHA director who lamented the problems that the agency is having.
New reporting obligations went into effect on January 1, 2015 and now companies must provide notice to OSHA of more injuries. Employers have to alert OSHA within 24 hours if a worker sustains an injury that leads to overnight hospitalization, an amputation or the loss of an eye.
While these new reporting requirements are meant to make workplaces safer, this means OSHA has to respond to a lot more reports of injuries and must do a lot more investigation post-accidents. The staff of the agency, and the agencies budget, has not been increased in response to this extra work.
With more OSHA inspectors responding to problems, this leaves even less time for routine inspections that are necessary to stop the injuries from happening in the first place. OSHA has less time to spend not only on standard inspections, but also on providing educational program, checking out complaints made by employees, and keeping a close watch on companies with track-records of skirting workplace safety issues.
The fact that more inspections must be done by the same number of employees also means that it is harder for thorough and accurate investigations to be conducted.
The strained budget and the added responsibilities have caused the OSHA area director interviewed by the Journal News to describe his staff as being "inundated," putting them in a bind as to how they can prioritize their workloads to have the biggest impact on keeping people safe.
Unfortunately, employers know that routine OSHA inspections are extremely unlikely to occur due to the understaffing issues. OSHA relies largely on voluntary compliance of companies to correct safety hazards and try to keep injury rates low. When employers have less concerns about OSHA inspectors visiting and when inspections post-injury are not as thorough, this undermines the incentive that employers have to do things by the book.
Workers depend upon OSHA to enforce safety rules and the agency needs to be given the money necessary to do this job right. If they aren't, then workers suffer the consequences of unsafe workplaces and life-changing injuries.
A Scranton accident attorney at O'Malley & Langan can help. Call (800) 817-2667 today to schedule your free consultation. Serving Lackawanna, Luzerne, Bradford, Schuykill, Lehigh, Monroe, Wyoming and Wayne counties and surrounding areas.