Workers’ compensation lawyers in New York know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency entrusted with protecting workers from unsafe work conditions. OSHA promulgates rules, oversees compliance with regulation, investigates workplace accidents and deaths and issues citations when employers allow dangerous conditions to exist on the job.
Unfortunately, the agency is chronically overworked and understaffed. Many workplaces go uninspected and OSHA doesn’t even respond in a prompt way in every case where employers make credible complaints about safety problems at their place of employment. Worse, workers are not necessarily provided with all of the protections against retaliation that they should have when they report problems or rule violations.
Workers deserve to have a safe place to work, but with OSHA too understaffed to be effective in enforcing regulations, workers often need to get legal help to protect themselves when they report workplace safety violations and are retaliated against. This is a problem and many workers are deterred from even taking steps to protect themselves and their co-workers by reporting hazards because they are too afraid of what is going to happen and too uncertain that reporting problems will actually lead to solutions.
OSHA Failing to Ensure Workplace Safety
According to In These Times, OSHA had one federal inspector as an employee for every 1,900 workplaces. Today, because of an increase in the number of employers and because of ongoing cuts to OSHA’s budget, OSHA has one inspector for every 4,300 workplaces. This means that the agency has one inspector for every 62,000 workers.
OSHA has been forced to largely rely on employees reporting problems and then responding to these complaints since the agency doesn’t have nearly enough employees to go out and be proactive at inspecting workplaces on its own. Unfortunately, whistleblower laws designed to protect employees who alert OSHA to problems are given just 30 days to file a complaint and the burden of proof is too high under the law. OSHA also takes a long time to investigate when a worker does report and if OSHA decides not to pursue action, the worker cannot go to the courts himself for relief.
Other whistleblower statutes for different federal agencies provide much more protections for individuals who report abuses, including longer complaint periods, but the legislation protecting workers is outdated and hasn’t been updated to be an effective form of protection.
The absence of a sufficient number of OSHA inspectors coupled with these weak protections have resulted in workplaces where hazards continue to exist until workers are seriously injured or killed. The recent government shutdown has only made things worse by backing OSHA up further, and the sequester cuts reduced OSHAs budget as well, which means that conditions are unlikely to get better for workers in the near future. Amidst this difficult political climate, workers are left with few options but contacting an attorney to help them protect their rights when they get hurt on a job.
If you suffer a workplace injury, contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today by calling (800) 692-3717 or completing the online contact form.