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Shutdown affects number of government safety inspections

Minnesota residents may be interested in an article that discusses one of the lesser talked about effects of the federal government shutdown. The furloughs at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are leaving many workplaces without inspections, increasing future work for the agency and potentially adding to the number of on-the-job accidents.

On Oct. 1, the federal government shut down, furloughing many of its workers. OSHA is one agency that has seen a large percentage of its workers affected by the shutdown. According to the head of the agency, 90 percent of the inspectors employed by them were furloughed. This leaves only a fraction responding to serious emergencies. The effect of this furlough, however, is an increased backlog in scheduled inspections and an unavailability to employers for answers to compliance questions.

The shutdown is only exacerbating a problem that has gone on for decades. Though there were twice as many U.S. businesses in 2011 as there were in 1981, the number of inspectors employed by the agency went unchanged. It is currently estimated that a business will only be inspected once every 99 years. With budget cuts to the agency proposed for next year, the number of inspectors is in danger of decreasing. The lower inspector-workplace ratio could lead to an increase in workplace injuries. In 2011, for example, there was an average of 13 workplace accidents a day. 2013 has already seen its share of deadly accidents, as well.

A workplace accident can be the cause of serious injury or death, resulting in the need for workers' compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages. An attorney who has experience with workers' compensation benefits may be able to help ensure that these expenses are recovered from a negligent employer.

Source: Think Progress, "Workplaces Go Without Safety Inspections During The Shutdown", Bryce Covert, October 11, 2013

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