Just a few days after a devastating fertilizer plant explosion in Texas that killed at least 14 people and injured more than160, the Government Accountability Office has released a report that calls state workplace safety programs inadequate and ineffective.
The report was based on inspections in three federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regions – Chicago, Philadelphia and Denver. Inspectors conducted interviews with local Occupational Safety and Health Administration personnel, including project managers for enforcement, administrators and divisional administrators.
The GAO surveyed 22 state-run workplace safety programs that are responsible for oversight of safety in both private and public sector workplaces. The inspections found that many of the state programs had a serious shortage of staff members to conduct workplace inspections. These offices reported that it was difficult to retain qualified inspectors.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for overseeing workplace safety across the country. It currently has just 2,000 inspectors, who conduct approximately 40,000 inspections every year. That means the agency would be able to conduct inspections of every workplace in the country only once every 99 years.
The Government Accountability report makes dramatic recommendations that are not likely to go down well with vested industry interests, who favor as little oversight as possible. The report recommends that OSHA be given the power to step in and take over state-run workplace safety programs that don’t meet minimum requirements.
Michael Parsons is an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer, representing injured workers in the metro Atlanta region and helping them recover the workers’ compensation benefits that they deserve.