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U.S. worker safety programs suffering

American workers in New York and other states may enjoy more legal protections than their counterparts in other industrialized nations do, but recent events and data reveal that worker's safety is still lacking. In 2011, around 13 U.S. workers were killed on the job every day. The relatively high prevalence of worker deaths is believed to be a result of numerous factors, such as insufficient funding for agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In the recent case of a Texas fertilizer plant that exploded and killed no less than 15, it was revealed that the facility's last inspection was in 1985. The Government Accountability Office also revealed that the workplace safety rule making process is fraught with delays as a matter of course. New rules generally take around seven years to be drafted and implemented, and a quarter of them require at least a decade.

Commenters note that it's unlikely that Congress will make any improvements anytime soon. Sequesters and other politically motivated budget modifications continually reduce the efficacy of workplace safety agencies and programs. Policy directors point out that with the limited resources currently available to it, OSHA only has enough capacity to inspect each workplace in the U.S. about once every 131 years.

The lack of stringent inspection standards and an effective workplace safety implementation program may work against employees. Those who are injured in workplace accidents often suffer severe physical and mental trauma, but they might still have a hard time winning compensation due to the lack of OSHA data on their workplaces. Many victims seek legal counsel so that they can prove that their injuries were caused by their employers' improper management or negligence.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "A May Day Look at American Workplace Safety", PAT GAROFALO, May 01, 2013

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