Shame on OSHA

Over the years well intentioned people have suggested that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is an adequate and appropriate agency to police health-harming workplace bullying. If OSHA were to guide employer prevention and correction, the argument goes, then no new law (the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill) would be unnecessary.

The phenomenon does seem to fall within OSHA’s responsibilities.

We counter that OSHA is hopeless and helpless. By definition, it is a regulatory agency. And there are state-level OSHA’s.

OSHA proponents seem unaware that the federal government has abdicated its regulatory role in the last 40 years.

Sadly, since Reagan, the notion that federal agencies’, e.g., OSHA, responsibilities are to protect workers, has become quaint. Regulations have been excised to appease greedy employers. Business lobbyists prevail in the halls of Congress and every state legislature. Simply look at how Trump administration officials boast that deregulation was an admirable accomplishment, as noteworthy as the tax cut for millionaires and corporations.

Now comes another tale of a worker’s death. This time at FedEx’s Memphis package sorting hub. ProPublica reported that Duntate Young, a 23-year-old temporary worker on the job less than a month was killed. Packages shifted inside a container, pushed open a door, hitting Young’s leg, causing him to fatally fall into a metal pole.

Because OSHA — worker safety — is an afterthought of Congress, they have too few inspectors to cover employers. So, OSHA grants the authority to identify and fix safety issues to employers themselves (much like USDA meat inspectors allow meat packing plants to “inspect” themselves to ensure food chain safety, think of the e coli outbreaks). FedEx, the corporation, had the responsibility to self-inspect.

Young’s death triggered an actual OSHA investigation. As ProPublica states, FedEx annual revenue tops $75 billion, the fine levied by OSHA was a whopping $7,000! The fine in March 2020 was for failing to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Adding insult, the Tennessee OSHA reduced the fine to $5,950. Why? Because FedEx “inspectors” gave the state a list measures they had taken to prevent similar deaths.

So, if you think OSHA would understand and ameliorate severe psychological violence, sub-lethal and non-physical, abusive conduct — THINK AGAIN.

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