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OSHA workplace safety inspectors numbers down

California is one of several states that has its own state-level Occupational Safety and Health Administration program. However, many workplaces throughout the country might be less likely to get a visit from OSHA inspectors due to a staffing shortage. Some of the areas hardest hit by the shortage are southeastern states such as Mississippi, Florida and Georgia.

Although the agency increased the number of its inspections for the first time in five years between October 2016 and September 2017, OSHA lost around 4 percent of its inspectors after the Trump administration came into office. As of Oct. 2, no one had been hired to replace them. However, a Labor Department spokesperson said that some new inspectors had been hired since October without specifying the amount.

There is still concern that OSHA may have too few inspectors to do its job of enforcing workplace safety. The agency was already working with limited resources, and this led to the need to prioritize monitoring certain industries and work sites, such as those in manufacturing and construction. The job of inspectors includes investigating complaints from employees and documenting violations. Employers can be penalized with fines and in other ways if their workplaces are unsafe.

Regardless of the number of OSHA inspectors available, workers are still supposed to be protected from an unsafe working environment. If they are injured or become ill because of an on-the-job accident or hazardous materials in the workplace, they are usually eligible for workers' compensation. The benefits can be critical in taking care of workers and their families during the recovery period. Workers may want to talk to an attorney for assistance in understanding their rights, completing paperwork and preparing an appeal if necessary. Employees may also want to talk with an attorney if their employer tries to retaliate against them for applying for compensation.

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