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OSHA enforcement necessary to protect workers

For employees in Connecticut and across the United States, the threat of workplace accidents and injuries is all too real. Far too many workers face unsafe conditions on a daily basis. The former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration emphasized in testimony before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives that in order to provide protections for these workers, strong enforcement and implementation of standards is necessary, because voluntary employer programs tend to be ineffective in improving workplace conditions.

Because programs like the Voluntary Protection Plan involve only one employer at a time, these types do not produce benefits for the vast majority of workers in a particular industry. On the contrary, the employers that participate in initiatives like the VPP tend to be work sites that already enjoy a high level of safety and that work to protect against unsafe working conditions. While these are the best employers in the market, he said, involving them in voluntary programs does not provide any improvement for workers who face dangerous conditions elsewhere.

Meanwhile, he noted, involving employers in these programs requires a large amount of agency time and resources. Extensive, wall-to-wall inspections and lengthy paperwork are part and parcel of the vetting for such programs. These resources could be otherwise used by OSHA to ramp up enforcement, inspections and implementation of standards across the board.

For many workers, a day on the job carries the real potential of danger, from injury in an accident to toxic exposure and the threat of occupational disease. Employees who are injured in the course of their work have a right to pursue workers' compensation benefits, and they may want to have legal assistance when so doing.

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