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Workers' compensation and government agencies push for safety

There are work accidents in America’s workplaces daily, including in Colorado. Many of these are serious events that were preventable. Each day workers must go on disability leave due to a system of safety regulations and prevention that is not working at its capacity. Fortunately, a comprehensive system of workers’ compensation benefits serves to expedite claims and takes care of the survival needs of employees in a structured format.

The compensation system has problems, however, and some claims of deserving workers are regularly rejected or manipulated for cynical reasons by insurance adjusters. Those are matters that are taken up in the enormously busy workers’ compensation claims courts that exist in each state. The system works fairly well but is overburdened with long waiting periods and, in some areas, a pro-employer bias.

Regarding preventative safety, there are state and federal agencies charged with the responsibility of inspecting workplaces on a state-by-state basis. It’s not a secret that OSHA, the federal agency in charge of prevention and enforcement, is unable to perform all of its functions. That is due to reductions in budgets, government regulations and staff turnover, according to one Midwest director for OSHA. The result is that the agency spends most of its time investigating accidents instead of inspecting for potential problems and correcting them.

OSHA's limitations were shown by the explosion in the West, Texas fertilizer plant in 2013 that killed 16. It was discovered that OSHA had not inspected the plant since the 1980’s. Deregulation and recessionary economic realities have thus created a bare-bones kind of safety supervision of America’s worksites. Currently, industries that are obvious safety hazards and companies with bad track records receive the only attention that OSHA can afford.

There are state agencies, including in Colorado, that partially supplement OSHA’s efforts. Additionally, workers’ compensation carriers have applied a certain pressure, inconsistently from industry to industry, to attempt to promote safety and prevention. They do it essentially by risk assessment procedures that penalize companies with poor safety records. This combination of factors has helped to keep a certain damper on workplace injuries, but there is much more left to do.

Source: Dayton Daily News, "OSHA focuses more on accident response, hazards than prevention", Chelsey Levingston, July 9, 2014

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