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OSHALast week the U.S. Department of Labor’s Inspector General’s office issued a report finding that most of the Department’s whistleblower investigations are flawed. The IG’s office reviewed investigative files of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which has responsibility to enforce the employee protections of 17 federal statutes. It found that OSHA dismissed 77% of the whistleblower complaints. In 21% of cases, the complainant withdrew the complaint, either with or without a settlement. That left 2% of cases in which OSHA found the complaint had merit. This is not a rate that would encourage employees to come forward with concerns that might provoke retaliation.

The study examined a sample of the files for compliance with eight essential components of an investigation. These components are things like interviewing the complainant, documenting that interview, asking for witnesses, interviewing the witnesses, visiting the site, allowing the complainant to respond to the employer’s claims, and conducting a closing conference. “These elements are essential to the investigative process to ensure that complainants receive appropriate investigations,” the report states at page 3. Compliance with these standards ranges from 54% (conducting face-to-face visits, or a site visit) to 85% (holding a closing conference). The IG concluded that 80% of the investigations failed to meet one or more of the eight essential elements. 

Continue Reading DOL Inspector General finds flaws in most OSHA whistleblower investigations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it will hold a live web chat tomorrow from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss OSHA’s new safety rules for cranes and derricks used in construction. Interested parties can access the web chat by visiting tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. Cranes and derricks have been a perennial danger on construction sites, and improved safety standards will be a welcome development. The new standards will be even more effective if Congress passes the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), HR 2067, so that workers will own their own retaliation claims if they insist on following the new rule and suffer retaliation as a result. The full OSHA statement announcing the web chat follows in the continuation of this entry.

Continue Reading OSHA to issue new safety standards for cranes and derricks

Public interest groups have scheduled a town hall meeting to discuss legislation designed to protect miners and other workers from injury and disease. It is scheduled for next Tuesday, July 27, 2010, at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, 4444 Arlington Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. A flyer is available here. Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, is scheduled to speak. The purpose of the town hall meeting is to build support for H.R. 5663, the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act. This legislation would expand and improve workplace safety laws by strengthening both the Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). We posted a previous notice about this bill here.

Continue Reading Town Hall meeting on workplace and mine safety in Arlington, Virginia