Is OSHA doing the job they’re supposed to do? According to data provided by OSHA itself, there’s no way for OSHA to effectively do its job based on current budget constraints. This has resulted in many otherwise preventable accidental deaths.
Last year, Tim Taylor was killed while working at Central Ready Mix LLC in Middletown, Ohio. Taylor was working with a cone-bottom silo and attempted to break up clumps of fly ash by climbing into the silo without a harness. After several hours of doing this, he became engulfed in the fly ash and asphyxiated, and his death was ruled accidental by the Butler County Coroner’s Office.
OSHA noted 10 serious violations within the facility, and OSHA area director Bill Wilkerson said in regards to the accident that “employers are responsible for identifying hazards and ensuring workers follow proper procedures to prevent injury or death.”
Not surprisingly, though, many businesses become lax in their standards when not held accountable. Even though Central Ready Mix had several pieces of potentially dangerous equipment that require proper care and oversight in order to ensure worker safety, it had been 13 years since the site had last been inspected by federal work-safety workers.
Ron White, the director of regulatory policy for the Center for Effective Government, says that OSHA is dangerously underfunded. Based on the budget and staff OSHA is currently working with, it would take the organization 100 years to inspect every facility they have oversight of, according to White. OSHA is currently responsible with inspecting workplace safety conditions for about 130 million employees in the U.S.
Although there are significant issues with how frequently OSHA conducts inspections, Wilkerson still feels like safety for workers overall is improving. “There’s a greater knowledge and understanding [about worker safety],” he said. U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reflect this, with the number of fatal work-related injuries declining from 5,764 in 2004 to 4,628 in 2012 (the most recent year on record).