OSHA and the Courts are Not Necessarily Protecting Workers Nationwide Advocates Say

By Neil Kalra

Labor advocates are voicing more concerns about regulatory oversight of workplace safety in this current “business friendly” Trump administration. Those concerns are especially prominent in New York, where statistics reveal a dramatic increase in workplace deaths in 2018; the highest since 2009. Moreover, data in 2017 and 2018 shows the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials have issued noticeably lower fines for New York employers.

According to OSHA statistics on federal inspections, the number of inspections in New York State has risen slightly. But fewer infractions (and corresponding violations) have been cited per-visit. And the penalties handed-out have been smaller with OSHA citing “inflation” as the reason. So there are more violations. But the penalties aren’t as large as those during the previous Obama Administration.

That the number of safety violations is larger seems curious, considering that OSHA has fewer federal working inspectors In January 2018, the agency employed 764 inspectors: compared to 814 one year earlier. They performed more visits (around 1.5 percent more in 2017 than the previous year) but less than any other previous year. And fewer “quality” inspections were performed – which take less time – by focusing on less sophisticated workplaces. In essence, OSHA inspectors are beefing up their numbers by concentrating on the “low-hanging inspection fruit;” while ignoring more complicated – and generally more dangerous – workplaces.

The fact that there is no permanent Secretary of Labor, whose job it is to advocate more quality inspections, and only an acting chief executive of OSHA, should tell us all we need to know about how high a priority the working man is to the Trump Administration. When you then add that more OSHA inspections are not uncovering serious workplace safety violations, it’s too easy to see that the “business friendly” White House has other things on its mind than worker safety.

Unions on the Run, More Latitude for OSHA Safety Violators

Workers, and the unions that protect them, took it on the chin again when a D.C. federal appeals court in mid-July, 2019 reinstated the President’s 2018 executive orders which significantly weaken federal unions power. So the executive orders are again in place that:

  • Make it easier for managers to fire under-performing federal employees

  • Limit the amount of “official” work time during which unions could weigh grievances, and;

  • Ordered the renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements.

This goes against the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), according to National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon who says that, “These judicial orders go to the heart of the federal law that clearly states collective bargaining in the federal government is in the public’s interest.”

And if that’s not enough, OSHA understands when a contractor has trained employees on safety rules and individual workers refuse to follow procedures, employers can cite employee misconduct as a defense against an OSHA violation. Lately, it appears that more employers are using employee non-compliance more successfully when cited for safety violations.

So workers should beware that their job site isn’t as safe as it was a year or two ago. And employers have more tools to avoid serious safety violations, and fines.

Whether you or a family member was injured due to a car accident, commercial vehicle accident, or semi-truck accident, you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you deserve. The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting car accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced car accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. Call our New York City and Queens car accident lawyers today if you have any questions about a car accident you were involved in. Call us at (718) 897-2211 www.unionlawyer.com

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