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An OSHA inspection once every 159 years

The title of this post is taken from a ProPublica report on workplace safety. According to the report, OSHA only has enough people to conduct safety inspections on each job site once every 159 years. Is that enough? Given that thousands of employees lose their lives while on the job every year, and millions more are injured, the answer is a hearty no.

But even if OSHA went on a hiring spree (not likely under the current presidential administration), there are millions of American workplaces. Regularly inspecting all of them is highly unlikely. You have to draw the line somewhere. “Once every 159 years” loses its heft when you consider the reality.

Even so, the line as it is currently drawn cuts workplace safety short.

According to ProPublica, a number of OSHA advisory committees have been disbanded, including the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, which had been working on how to stop people from being killed in back-up accidents involving heavy trucks and machinery. Another committee had been working to reduce cancer-causing beryllium exposure in shipyard workers.

We may be doing much better than in the past when it comes to the rate of workplace fatalities (these deaths are one reason why the workers’ compensation system exists in the first place), but employees continue to lose their lives from dangerous conditions. The fact that fewer people die today is little solace for a family mourning the loss of a loved one.

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