OSHA...SMH: 115 Inspectors Assigned to NY's 592,148 Workplaces

A new report from Public Citizen shows that New York lost $10.9 billion between 2010 and 2012 due to occupational injuries. An even more alarming figure is OSHA’s budget for fiscal year 2012: $583 million, or $4 for each U.S. worker.  

Underfunding saddles OSHA with a nearly impossible task. There are 115 inspectors assigned to New York’s 592,148 workplaces. Last year, OSHA managed to inspect a paltry 5,511 of these workplaces, less than one percent. If OSHA were to continue at this rate it would take them 110 years to inspect all of New York’s workplaces.

The report, “Aim Higher: New York should Adjust its Workers’ Compensation Laws to Reduce Injuries,” is much more than a scathing review of OSHA’s underfunding.  It is filled with recommendations for the implementation of workplace safety and loss prevention programs which are currently only mandatory in a handful of industries.  Public Citizen suggests making such programs a requirement for all private sector employers noting that states which have done so have witnessed a decrease in injuries and lowering of overall costs.  

According to Keith Wrightson, author of the report, “Safety should not be optional. The economic and health toll of avoidable workplace injuries is unconscionable, and the state must act now to improve this appalling situation.”

The numbers pertaining to workers injuries are staggering and reveal day-in-and-day-out danger. Service sector jobs are surprisingly unsafe, according to EHS Today’s analysis of the report:

From 2010 to 2012 (the most recent data available), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 463,400 injuries and illnesses among private sector employees in New York. Of these, 245,600 workplace injuries and illnesses were considered serious incidents of worker injury that caused days away from work, job transfer or restriction of duties. In 2012 alone, New York reported 146,300 private industry injury and illness cases, 79,500 of which were considered serious injuries, involving days away from work, job transfer or restriction of duties.

According to the report, service-industry workers suffered the brunt of injuries, accounting for 83 percent of the injuries and illnesses that year. This disproves a common misconception that service sector jobs are less of a concern for worker safety. Overexertion (due to lifting and moving) was the leading event in the state that caused a workplace injury in the service sector. These injuries often strike service sector workers, such as hotel workers lifting mattresses to change sheets.

Currently, only employers who have workers compensation premiums 20 percent over the average are required to develop a comprehensive plan to identify and correct hazards before they cause injury.

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