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OSHA criticized in OIG workplace safety report

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not doing enough to enforce regulations that require employers in North Carolina and around the county to report workplace injuries and fatalities in a timely manner. This was the conclusion reached by the Department of Labor in the Office of Inspector General's Nov. 30 report to Congress. The semiannual report marks the second time in a matter of weeks that the DOJ has criticized OSHA's less than vigorous pursuit of persistent violators.

According to an OIG audit of OSHA enforcement practices, the workplace safety watchdog has issues just 400 citations for failing to report injuries or deaths or reporting them late since December 2015. The regulations were revised and stiffened in January 2015. The OIG blames the lax enforcement on OSHA's information gathering protocols. One of the agency's former senior officials has claimed that only about 50 percent of serious workplace injuries are reported.

The report also criticized the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Once again, it was the agency's inconsistent approach to gathering information about unsafe working conditions that drew the ire of the OIG. The MSHA was singled out in the report for not doing enough to respond to a worrying increase in pneumoconiosis, which is also called black lung disease, among Appalachian coal miners and failing to ensure that mines have adequate emergency response plans in place.

Employers that routinely violate workplace safety regulations may find that state workers' compensation programs do not shield them from lawsuits filed by injured workers or the families of workers who have been killed. While these programs were adopted in part to prevent this kind of litigation, exceptions are sometimes made when employers act with gross negligence. When workers are injured because their employers acted so recklessly that accidents became inevitable, attorneys with experience in this area might suggest that they file a personal injury lawsuit as well as a workers' compensation claim.

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