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Former OSHA official favors enforcement over voluntary programs

Many workers in Minnesota rely on the standards imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on employers. The safety agency's former assistant secretary of labor, who served from 2009 to 2017, informed the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections that OSHA should apply its limited resources to enforcement instead of Voluntary Protection Programs.

The voluntary programs require OSHA agents to inspect and verify employers' eligibility for programs that recognize them as safety leaders. The former OSHA official said that these inspections take resources away from confronting employers that are failing to meet safety laws. As a result, efforts directed at maintaining voluntary programs do nearly nothing to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. He said that no studies have been conducted to verify the effectiveness of voluntary compliance programs.

He emphasized that high safety standards, inspections and enforcement produced results. For employers acting in good faith, standards provided them with concrete guidance that helped them identify and mitigate hazards to employees and thereby save lives. As for enforcement actions, he said evidence showed that they prevented injuries and exerted positive pressure across industries to improve safety efforts.

When someone is hurt on the job, the employer's workers compensation insurance should pay for medical bills and lost pay. In some cases, issues such as employer negligence or an unsafe working environment might raise legal questions about workplace accidents that a person may discuss with an attorney. After looking at evidence like safety citations from inspectors or testimony from co-workers, an attorney might advise the person about filing a workers compensation claim or trying to hold an employer directly responsible for a personal injury. An attorney may be able to manage the process of making a complaint to regulators and preparing court filings to pursue a settlement for the injured worker.

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