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OSHA investigates accidents rather than prevent them

Minnesota readers might be interested in a recent article that suggests that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may face a number of limitations when enforcing workplace-safety standards. Because of employee turnover, underfunding and government regulations, OSHA primarily concentrates on investigating accidents that injure or kill workers rather than working with businesses to prevent such accidents.

A good example of this is the explosion that killed 16 people at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013. Investigative reporters found the business had not been inspected since the 1980s. In a similar case, a 39-year-old man was killed in an accident that occurred in a concrete making plant. According to the area director of OSHA, the accident was preventable.

OSHA officials blame underfunding for the lack of preventative inspections, saying with the current funding and staffing it would take OSHA 100 years to inspect all the required businesses in the United States. Unfortunately for workers, this may increase their chances of being injured in workplace accidents.

While there are barriers to inspections and preventative measures, data suggests that the incidence of work-related injuries has dropped, but in 2012, 3 million workers employed in the private sector were injured. However, Minnesota workers who are injured in an unsafe working environment can get help after the fact through workers' compensation claims. Benefits offered by workers' compensation might include present and future medical bills and lost wages. A workers' compensation lawyer may be able to assist hurt workers with the filing process. That lawyer may be able to review the case and evaluate the extent of the damages suffered and the amount that the workers' compensation program is obligated to pay.

Source: Dayton Daily News, "OSHA focuses more on accident response, hazards than prevention", Chelsey Levingston, July 09, 2014

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