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LABOR News

June 13, 2013
Over 90 Workers per Week Killed On the Job
The AFL-CIO released their report on work related deaths, “Death on the Job”, in May,reporting 4,693 workers were killed on the job in 2011. That is 3.5 work related fatalities per 100,000 workers, a number which has not changed in the past three years.
 
"In 2013, it is unacceptable that so many hardworking men and women continue to die on the job," Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, said in a statement. "No one should have to sacrifice his or her life or health and safety in order to earn a decent living. Yet, elected leaders, business groups and employers have failed to provide adequate health and safety protections for working families."
 
Over forty years ago Congress created the Occupational Safety & Health Administration  (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
 
“There has been progress,” said Janet Golden, a historian at Rutgers University-Camden who specializes in the history of workplace safety. “You can thank social reformers and labor unions, for the most part.”
 
And progress has been made; since OSHA was created in 1970 workplace fatalities have been reduced by 65% - from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2011. 
 
But has OSHA’s ability to keep American workers safe been diminished by lack of funding and staffing?  Their own website points out that their 2,200 inspectors works out to only one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.  In 2011 OSHA completed 92,704 state and federal inspections. At that rate it would take OSHA well over 85 years to inspect each of the 8 million worksites around the nation.
 
“With every one of these fatalities, the lives of a worker's family members were shattered and forever changed. We can't forget that fact." -acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris
 
One way to increase the effectiveness of OSHA would be the passage of Protecting of America’s Workers Act or PAWA. - PAWA increases OSHA protections to include state, county, municipal and U.S. government employees.  Additionally, PAWA increases whistleblower protections, improves OSHA reporting, inspection and enforcement and increases penalties for law breakers.