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Could government shut down compromise worker safety?

As the government shut down nears the conclusion of its second day, some people idly dismiss the shuttering of many federal agencies. They believe that these agencies provide nothing of value as they go about their day. Because they have never been injured on the job or filed a workers' compensation claim they think that the closing of the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has no impact on their safety.

While OSHA will continue to operate emergency inspections where there is an immediate threat of injury or death to workers, it has meant the elimination of their standard inspection schedule. 

Agencies like OSHA already are sadly underfunded. Events like the sequestration and now the partial government shut down only further compromise their ability to protect American workers.

Other agencies that have workplace safety oversight, such as involving mine safety, will remain in place.

What is disturbing about all this is the reason much of the health and safety legislation and regulation exists is that thousands of workers were injured or killed over decades, and many organizations fought long fights to get these protections in place.

It is foolish to believe any of them would have naturally occurred on their own. When people complain about "oppressive regulation" and then turn to statistics that "prove" their case by demonstrating how few workers are killed or injured in an industry, we can only shake our heads.

The low numbers are a result of the regulations and workers whose lives have been saved by OSHA required safety protocols probably will never consider them oppressive.

Source: Huffington Post, "Government Shutdown To Hit Labor Department Workplace Safety, EEOC Discrimination Investigations," Dave Jamieson, Sept. 30, 2013

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