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Why you shouldn’t count on OSHA to keep your workers safe

By Linda Schwefel
January 12, 2022

Like most governmental agencies, OSHA is not immune to political will, and the numbers of inspectors can vary wildly from administration to administration.  In 1980, for example, there were 3,063 workplaces for each OSHA inspector; in 2020, there were 9,286.  Further demonstrating OSHA’s diminishment: in 2010, there were the same number of OSHA inspectors (1,106) as there was 30 years earlier, but by January 2019, there were only 875 inspectors, despite the incredible growth in the American workforce.

Not enough inspectors – or hours in the day

With the reduction of inspectors, and the sheer scope of workplaces they must inspect, corners must be cut.  Deborah Berkowitz, former OSHA senior policy adviser, says “The agency is prioritizing quantity over quality. OSHA’s inspection resources are so limited that it would take the agency more than 150 years to visit every workplace under its jurisdiction just once.” COVID-19 restrictions have further lessened the reach of OSHA inspections. The agency conducts only about one-third of the inspections as in previous years, and even resorting to remote inspections.

‍It’s all fun – until someone loses an eye (or limb, or worse)

Even if you aren’t a fan of OSHA visits (and who is?), you should temper your urge to celebrate. A 2012 study found that OSHA inspections reduced the injury workers’ comp claims by 9%, and lowered the medical expenses and wage replacement paid by those claims by 26%. A reduction in on-site inspections often result in workplace hazards being unidentified and unabated longer. In addition, the fewer inspectors greatly reduces whatever deterrent effect the threat of a surprise OSHA inspection – simply put, when “businesses know they’re not likely to be inspected, they are less likely to devote resources to create safe workplaces.”

A worker performing a safety inspection using a tablet - Why you shouldn’t count on OSHA to keep your workers safe

Don’t wait for OSHA

OSHA oversight is no longer a major concern due to COVID-19 restrictions and fewer inspectors, making it crucial for companies to proactively ensure workplace safety. Regular field inspections maintain safety standards. Additionally, digital checklists empower workers to perform tasks and inspections, ensuring alignment in protecting workers and ensuring workplace compliance. Ultimately, the responsibility to safeguard your staff rests with you. Remember, a single severe accident can devastate profits, tarnish your reputation, and even cost lives. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Why wait?

Join the over 2,500 Fulcrum customers who have improved field inspection processes and streamlined reporting with real-time, scalable data sharing. Sign up for our free 30-day trial today!