Each year, thousands of working men and women die on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,609 workers in 2011 did not return home from a day’s work (2012 data will be available later this year). On April 28, we observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces. This year, the struggle continues as members of Congress have jeopardized Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) funding with the so-called “sequester” budget cuts.
The resources that have been appropriated to OSHA are not only to enforce rules and regulations, but also to provide training for workers and returning military personnel, fund research and create new regulations. Sadly, OSHA’s tight budget inhibits its ability to carry out its mission.
The latest economic reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that more than 143 million workers are employed in the United States. Yet, OSHA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012 was $583 million — a paltry 4 dollars per American worker to ensure safety and health on the job.
What’s even more shocking is OSHA’s inability to levy significant fines on employers who have broken the law. The Occupational Safety and Health Act limits the fines that OSHA can charge negligent employers to a maximum of $7,000 per safety violation deemed “serious,” even if the violations resulted in a worker death. The threshold for fines is in dire need of modernization.
It’s time for our country to fulfill the promise of safe jobs for all and to hold employers accountable for their actions.
Flickr photo via Granth
Taxpayer dollars should only go to contractors that safeguard their employees from dangerous work conditions. Yet, throughout the United States, government agencies at the state, local, and federal levels award contracts for bridge repair, sewer installation, school renovation and other construction projects to irresponsible companies that endanger their employees’ lives.
We see this problem writ large in the State of Maryland.
To make sure taxpayer dollars are used responsibly, and in response to an August 2012 Public Citizen report, Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would require companies to meet safety standards as a prequalification for working on public projects in the state.
House Bill 1486 was introduced by Maryland Delegate Brian McHale (D-Baltimore) and co-sponsored by Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore). The Public Citizen report showed safety shortfalls cost the state $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010. During that time, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents, of which 11,000 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in those years.
Flickr photo by Talk Radio News
On the heels of the conviction of former Upper Big Branch Mine superintendent Gary May, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis has announced a final rule to strengthen safety in the nation’s most dangerous mines.
The rule revises the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) pattern of violations regulation (POV), which is a part of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Until now, the POV regulation had not been implemented. It will finally give MSHA the much-needed authority to stop mine production if a pattern of dangerous job conditions are present.
MSHA has said that the rule will ensure that mine operators monitor and address the most hazardous safety problems in their mines. It will also strengthen MSHA’s ability to respond to dangerous mining conditions, and improve safety and health regulations for mining’s most important resource – the miner. The new rule does much more than increase fines for infractions. If a mine operator continues to thumb its nose at working conditions, it could be shut down.