According to businessinsurance.com, workplace deaths have been higher than in decades, as the number of OSHA investigators have decreased sharply under the current administration.
There are now only 875 health safety inspectors for the entire country, which is the lowest in OSHA’s history. This was reported in March by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a non-profit pro-worker advocacy organization, which was based upon Department of Labor data.
NELP program director Debbie Berkowitz called the latest data very alarming. Ms. Berkowitz was a former senior official at OSHA. She said that there were unprecedented decreases in enforcement actions and staffing at OSHA, while workplace fatalities continue to climb.
The agency’s reduction in enforcement is directly attributable to cutbacks in investigating complex, high-impact safety inspections, which would result in higher workplace death rates.
These include low back and cervical injuries, which are often the most painful and often disabling conditions, and the most common. Heat stress injuries and deaths, caused by long exposure to outside temperatures, have also been under-investigated, even though the US has experienced record high temperatures.
There has also been a one-third drop in chemical and toxic agent exposures, which often lead to life-long disabilities which often develop years, even decades, after the workplace exposure.
“The Trump administration is cutting back on OSHA enforcement activity, putting workers’ lives at risk and undercutting businesses that play by the rules and prioritize worker safety,” Ms. Berkowitz said in the statement.
At our law firm, we regularly represent injured workers with these types of injuries. We are also aware that employers do not always place worker safety as a first priority. Often, when employers are faced with a workers’ compensation claim where a safety violation has occurred, they will aggressively defend against the claims, and unreasonably deny the claim, in order to avoid further OSHA liability or even criminal prosecution.