Labor Union Says OSHA Failing to Protect Workers

AMERICAN workers are inadequately protected by an under-funded, under-staffed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the AFL-CIO said in a report released April 27.

"When the low rate of workplace inspections is viewed in combination with the paltry financial consequences of violating the law, the message to employers is clear: OSHA is an agency with a weak bark and an even weaker bite," the nation's biggest labor organization said.

The report said job injury rates are at the highest level in a decade. It stated that 60,000 workers are permanently disabled each year from workplace injury and illness, while more than 10,000 are killed annually.

The federal OSHA, with fewer than 1,000 inspectors, is only equipped to inspect workplaces an average of once every 84 years, the report said, and inspects high-hazard workplaces an average of every 25 years.

With OSHA's $300 million annual budget and states' $80 million-worth of worker-protection programs, governments spend just $3.80 per worker for job safety, the report said. The average penalty paid by employers from 1972 to 1990 following an accident resulting in death was $1,130. Penalties varied widely among the states, with Utah at the lowest average of $340 and Maine at the highest with $5,360.

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