Employers are expected to comply with myriad federal regulations regarding the safety of workplaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Act created an agency called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that is tasked with ensuring compliance. OSHA is supposed to conduct routine inspections to identify safety violations. The agency is also responsible for investigating when a worker is hurt or killed, among other tasks.
Unfortunately, OSHA is understaffed and underfunded. It is not doing nearly enough to protect workers at a time when thousands still die or suffer serious injuries while at work each year. Workers who are hurt can make a claim for work injury benefits with the help of an Atlanta workers' comp lawyer, and can also notify OSHA about problems and trigger an investigation. However, once a worker has been hurt or killed, it is to late to undo the damage that is done.
If OSHA was more effective, perhaps some injuries and fatalities could be prevented. The Department of Labor's Office of the Inspection General has announced that it will be conducting audits into some key areas where OSHA may not be fulfilling its obligations to protect employees.
OSHA To Be Audited on Preventing Worker Safety Issues
There are five different areas in which the Office of Inspection General will be auditing the Occupational Safety Administration in 2015. According to OIG's workplace for the upcoming year, the OIG will be looking into:
- The protection OSHA provides to whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are people who come forward to report when something is wrong at work or when laws or safety rules are being broken by their employers. They are supposed to be protected from retaliation if they communicate employer violations. OSHA is responsible for investigating when whistleblowers make complaints and/or are victims of retaliation, and the agency is supposed to work with the Enforcement Directorate or other appropriate federal agencies when necessary to investigate whistleblower allegations. The audit will determine if OSHA is doing its job.
- The targeting of high-hazard industries. OSHA is supposed to use both National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) and Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) in order to target the investigation and oversight into industries where there is a high risk of workplace injuries (especially severe injuries) and into industries where there is a high risk of worker deaths. The audit will review whether OSHA's use of NEPs and LEPs has made any difference in improving working conditions within these industries.
- The effectiveness of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The VPP sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system, invites sites to apply, and then assesses applicants against these criteria. OSHA's verification includes an application review and a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts.The OIG will seek to determine if OSHA has established and implanted effective processes to follow up when participants experience workplace catastrophes or fatalities.
- The effectiveness of verifying abatement. When OSHA identifies violations of health and safety rules, the employers are supposed to fix the problem. OSHA is supposed to shake to ensure that the risks are abated. The OIG audit will determine if the agency is following up in a timely and efficient manner to make sure problems are corrected.
- The oversight of Job Corps Centers owned by the Department of Labor. OSHA is tasked with inspecting these job corp cents and enforcing safety rules. The audit will determine how the agency has done with these tasks.
The data from the audits will hopefully reveal things OSHA is doing well and areas where the agency could do better to prevent unsafe conditions that harm workers.
The Atlanta work injury lawyers at Van Sant Law, LLC offer free consultations to injured employees. Call today or contact us online to learn more.