Kirsten Stade, advocacy director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, writes on The Hill‘s Congress Blog that the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has turned a blind eye to widespread underreporting of workplace safety violations. Stade says that OSHA “accepts without question industry reports that paint a rosy picture of workplace health – even for notoriously dangerous industries such as steel plants and poultry factories.”
Photo by kevin (iapetus) via Flickr.
The piece’s strongest words come from Robert Whitmore, a former OSHA official who Stade says lost his job after speaking out against the agency’s lax standards.
“I contend that the current OSHA Injury and Illness information is inaccurate, due in part to wide scale underreporting by employers and OSHA’s willingness to accept these falsified numbers. There are many reasons why OSHA would accept these numbers, but one important institutional factor has dramatically affected the Agency since 1992, regardless of the political party in power: steady annual declines in the number of workplace injuries and illnesses make it appear that OSHA is fulfilling its mission.”
While advocating for Whitmore’s reinstatement, Stade admits the Obama administration has taken some important steps toward increasing OSHA accountability.
On September 30, 2009, OSHA initiated an “Illness and Injury Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program” that beefs up enforcement of industry reporting rules. It is designed to “test OSHA’s ability to effectively target establishments to identify under-recording of occupational injuries and illnesses”.
As its name might indicate, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is a nonprofit environmental advocacy group made up of local, state and federal employees.