The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has released a report on the historic problems OSHA has had in making American workplaces safe. Called Workers at Risk: Regulatory Dysfunction at OSHA, the report explains how OSHA has never had the funding it needs to keep pace with the new chemicals and technology used in American workplaces. Also, an anti-regulatory political environment has made it hard for OSHA to issue regulations on current safety needs.
The report notes how each OSHA investigator has to cover 60,000 workers — a ratio twice as thin as when OSHA started. Meanwhile, workers are getting sick and injured at about the same rate as 15 years ago. The report recommends increasing OSHA’s funding, increasing use of criminal enforcement, ending the practice of bargaining down penalties, publishing proposed settlements for public comment, and making more generic standards that combine multiple hazards in a single rule.
Missing from CPR’s report: any recommendations to improve protections for whistleblowers. OSHA retains one of the oldest and least effective whistleblower protections. It is time to amend OSHA’s Section 11(c) to give whistleblowers modern protections including access to jury trials.