Federal agencies

New OSHA directive focuses on family members of workers killed on the job

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Washington — OSHA has published an instructional directive to ensure the agency “communicates its fatality inspection procedures to the victim’s family and facilitates the exchange of information throughout the inspection and settlement process.”

Dated July 7, the directive includes updated templates for five agency letters. Two are letters of condolence from the relevant OSHA area director and OSHA’s assistant labor secretary, respectively. The others are letters regarding inspection findings and/or “Next of Kin Closure,” and are relative to whether a citation(s) is proposed against the deceased’s employer.

The new directive cancels a directive that had been in effect since April 17, 2012.

In a press release from advocacy group the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, Holly Shaw-Hollis, whose husband Scott died in 2002 after falling from a barge in Philadelphia, calls the directive a “step in the right direction.”

She adds: “I know firsthand that a sudden, shocking death in the workplace is a terrible experience for surviving family members. In the past, communication with OSHA has not always been consistent following these tragedies, at a time when families need answers and solid information.”

 

Leaders from National COSH as well as the United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities say they “welcome” the update.

“When a preventable workplace tragedy strikes, most families are unprepared,” USMWF Executive Director Tonya Ford, whose uncle, Bobby Fitch, died on the job in 2009, said in the release. “Often, family member victims have never dealt with OSHA or any kind of investigation before.

“This kind of guidance, reminding everyone that the needs of survivors have to be considered during the entire process, can hopefully set the right tone for getting families the help they need to get through a terrible ordeal.”

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