Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Pennsylvania steel town, fatal gas explosion goes unpunished by OSHA

4,690 people were killed at work in 2010, up three percent from 2009, the Center for Public Integrity reports. That means that more Americans died in their workplaces in one year than died during the entire war in Iraq.

Many on-the-job deaths were met with only a small fine, an average of $7,900. Some workplaces were never inspected at all. And because of understaffed regulation offices — and the looming threat of further budget cuts — the numbers aren’t likely to change.  The Federal regulatory agency tasks to investigate and enforce job-safety regulations, OSHA, is poorly staffed and underfunded.  And Republicans want to cut the agency's funding even more.

It would take the perpetually short-staffed OSHA 130 years to inspect every workplace in the U.S. Managers and their underlings must strike a balance between meeting “performance goals” set in Washington and conducting comprehensive inspections when deaths occur. A target of 42,250 inspections nationwide was established for fiscal year 2012, up 5.6 percent from the previous year’s goal. The number of federal inspectors, meanwhile, has stayed mostly flat; there were 1,118 in February 2012.

As this article details, sometimes when someone is killed in a preventable work injury, not much is done.  

Nick Revetta’s death did not make national headlines. No hearings were held into the accident that killed him. No one was fired or sent to jail.  “These deaths take place behind closed doors,” says Michael Silverstein, recently retired head of Washington State’s workplace safety agency. “They occur one or two at a time, on private property. There’s an invisibility element.”

Here's a nice video about this story.  Very sad....