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Are government cuts putting workers at risk of injury?

It's hard to read the news these days without at least glancing at a headline about the strained federal budget and states that are struggling to raise enough revenue. Budget cuts are being made, slowly, and along with those reductions have come some sacrifices. Of course, every government agency can find reasons why they should maintain their full budget, but for some the need is greater than others. 

Take the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, for example. Sequestration and budget cuts that took place this year were mostly absorbed by the agency without too many negative consequences. However a new report from the Center for Effective Government has concluded that additional cuts to OSHA's budget could have wide-ranging impacts that go directly to the issue of workplace safety. 

For example, one area of proposed cuts would impact training of new inspectors. With regular rates of turnover and retirements, this could lead to an understaffed inspection workforce.

To put this problem in terms related more closely to workplace safety and injuries, consider the fact that in 2011 the number of inspectors employed at OSHA was lower than the number employed back in 1981. Over that same period of time the number of workplaces subject to inspection doubled. This means that each inspector is now responsible for double the workload.

One of this year's worst workplace accidents that took place at a fertilizer plant in Texas was at a work site that had not been inspected since 1985. That blast resulted in 15 fatalities and 160 injuries.

Taking those facts into account, additional reductions in workplace safety inspectors may be highly concerning to those in high-risk occupations. 

 

Source: ThinkProgress, "American Workers Put At Risk of Death and Injury with Budget Cuts," Bryce Covert, Aug. 27, 2013. 

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