Report: Workplace Safety Losing Ground

The National Employment Law Project (NELP), a think-tank and lobbying group, released findings last week suggesting that workplace fatality investigations reached decade-high levels during the last two years while worksite safety enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declined during the same period. Moreover, OSHA currently has the lowest number of health and safety inspectors in the Agency’s 48-year history due to delays in hiring.

According to NELP, during the past two years, OSHA has:

  • Conducted fewer inspections involving hazards causing musculoskeletal disorders;
  • Halved the number of inspections regarding heat stress, even though 2018 was one of the hottest years on record;
  • Reduced the number of inspections where investigators measure individual workers’ levels of chemicals and other toxic agents; and
  • Halved the number of high-penalty cases.

Debbie Berkowitz, NELP’s program director for worker health and safety and a former senior official with OSHA, points to cutbacks in the number of complicated, high-impact safety and health inspections.

“We’re seeing huge red flags in the continued drop in enforcement and staffing at OSHA, while the number of workplace fatality investigations is at a decade high,” Berkowitz said. “That’s a clear indication that workplace deaths are on the rise.”