Labor Dept. and DOJ team up to fight workplace safety violators

Jan 16 2016

Government regulations are necessary across many aspects of life. But regulations are only effective if they can be enforced. Lack of enforcement capability is a common complaint about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Although OSHA is certainly well-intentioned, its resources, manpower and authority are often limited. The agency often gets involved after a serious workplace accident or fatality, but by then the damage has already been done. Underfunding and understaffing make it a practical impossibility for OSHA inspectors to conduct preventive safety inspections for all (or even most) workplaces. Sadly, some employers boldly violate safety regulations because they know that the chances of an OSHA inspection are so low.

Thankfully, this may be changing. In December 2015, the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice announced a collaborative enforcement campaign called the Worker Endangerment Initiative. Although safety laws and policies have not changed, violators could face higher penalties and even criminal prosecution under the WEI. It also seems as though the two agencies will pursue employer accountability more aggressively than in the past.

According to the WEI press release: “On an average day in America, 13 workers die on the job, thousands are injured and 150 succumb to diseases they obtained from exposure to carcinogens and other toxic and hazardous substances while they worked. Given the troubling statistics on workplace deaths and injuries, the Department of Justice is redoubling its efforts to hold accountable those who unlawfully jeopardize workers’ health and safety.”

If your workplace already has a strong safety record and complies with OSHA regulations, you may never see the WEI in action. Ultimately, that’s a good thing.

But workers can still be injured on the job, even in a relatively safe workplace. If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim that was denied or is otherwise not being processed, please discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.