In October 2009, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report about the parlous state of government monitoring and investigations of occupational health and safety practices in the workplace. Among the report’s findings:
Stakeholders most often cited workers’ fear of job loss and other disciplinary actions as disincentives that can affect workers’ decisions to report injuries and illnesses. Occupational health practitioners concurred: 67 percent reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness, and 46 percent said that this fear of disciplinary action has at least a minor impact on the accuracy of employers’ injury and illness records. (p. 22)
Got that? 2/3 of the people involved in making sure that workplaces are safe claim that they’ve witnessed workers reluctant to report their injuries and illnesses for fear of retaliation.
The report made a series of recommendations to deal with this and other problems related to gathering data on workplace health and safety practices.
What has the Obama administration done with those recommendations? According to the GAO’s website, the status of each of those recommendations is “open.” That is, nearly three years after the fact, OSHA has not yet implemented the report’s recommendations. To be fair, it has not yet not implemented those recommendations either. It just seems to be, well, doing stuff like this:
OSHA reported that during the one-year suspension of the record keeping audit program, it will officially revise its audit procedures to address this issue. OSHA Directive CPL 02-00-138, “Audit and Verification Program of Occupational Injury and Illness Records,” establishes the program and the procedures used to conduct data verification audits. OSHA will develop and implement a revised Directive during FY10 that will require worker interviews beginning with the audit cycle for the CY09 injury and illness data. The agency suspended the record keeping audits program for FY10 (auditing of CY08 data) to initiate a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Record keeping that will identify and correct record keeping inaccuracies among employers included in the OSHA Data Initiative. OSHA noted that NEP, which was implemented in October 2009, involves extensive interviews of employees and company officials.
In other words, in the fourth year of the Obama Administration, the health and safety of American workers remains “open.”
Update (1 pm)
Three days ago, the indispensable Mike Elk reported that the Obama administration had dropped a proposed rule that would have banned children as young as 12 from taking on very dangerous farm jobs. Democratic Senator Al Franken helped pressure the administration to drop the rule.