Federal agencies

AFL-CIO report: Workplace safety improving, but not enough

death on the job-AFL-CIO

Photo: AFL-CIO

Washington – OSHA has made strides in helping to reduce workplace deaths, but the agency still needs to issue more worker protections, according to the AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report.

The agency has issued four major safety and health rules since 2009, which the report describes as “slow and disappointing.” Several OSHA rules are “long overdue,” the report states, including standards covering confined spaces in construction, beryllium, combustible dust and infectious diseases.

Additionally, the report, which was released April 29, said several other areas need to be addressed to improve worker safety and health:

  • Increasing civil and criminal penalties for violations
  • Regulating various hazards, including ergonomic, chemical exposures and workplace violence
  • Strengthening whistleblower protections
  • Improving protections for Latino workers, who were the only racial group that saw an increase in fatal workplace injuries in 2013 (the most recent data available)

Of particular need is providing OSHA with a bigger budget, according to the report. During a conference call with reporters on April 29, Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO director of safety and health, said federal OSHA’s ability to inspect workplaces is deteriorating, and that it would take the agency 140 years to inspect every workplace in its jurisdiction one time.

“It keeps getting worse,” she said. “Their budget doesn’t go up. The number of inspectors doesn’t go up. The workforce grows.”