Following a string of workplace fatalities in Missouri and surrounding states, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a press release to speak on the issue. The release, however, seems to side with employers rather than workers. Coming from OSHA, which is supposed to fight for workers on issues from workplace safety to workers’ compensation, the tone of the release is worrisome.
Workplace Fatalities In and Around Missouri Spike
Since October, 2017, OSHA had been called on to investigate no fewer than 34 workplace fatalities in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. Among them were the two construction workers who fell down an open elevator shaft in St. Louis, Missouri, and the repairman who died outside of Springfield when a TV tower collapsed.
The increase in workplace accidents and fatalities was so extreme that OSHA issued a press release on the problem—a rare move for the organization.
Press Release Sides With Employers, Insinuates that Workers are to Blame
The press release, however, took a shocking tone. Not only did the release focus on how businesses could maximize their profits—rather than keep workers safe on the job—it also painted workplace accidents as employee-caused. It also remained silent on how workers could exercise their rights to a safe workplace.
Much of the release centers on OSHA’s compliance assistance programs that promote workplace safety. However, the release urges companies to use these programs not by saying they will help keep workers safe, but by stressing the low cost of the programs. While this could just be a tactic to get companies and employers to utilize the programs, when taken together with the rest of the release, it betrays OSHA’s new allegiance with businesses, rather than workers.
This new business-friendly attitude really comes out when the press release mentions why employers should use these programs to comply with workplace safety law: “By implementing and sustaining workplace safety and health programs we can help employees avoid preventable injuries and fatalities.”
The problem with this phrase is that it puts the onus on workers to “avoid preventable injuries and fatalities” when it is really the legal duty of employers. It makes it sound like complying with workplace safety laws helps workers do their jobs while avoiding dangerous conditions. That is not what workplace safety law does. These laws are on the books to ensure that these dangerous conditions are not in the workplace, at all.
Finally, the release is utterly silent on one of the most important parts of OSHA’s compliance efforts: Employee reporting. Infamously understaffed, OSHA relies on workers notifying the agency of dangerous conditions at their worksite so OSHA can send investigators and enforce its regulations. Nowhere in the press release does OSHA mention the importance of these reports or how worried workers can reach out to the agency for help.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The attitude portrayed in this press release suggests that workers will find their employers less and less interested in keeping their workplaces safe for employees. As workplace injuries increase, the need for workers’ compensation will rise, as well.