Sequester and the private sector

The big news around the water cooler this week has been the federal sequester – a term that few understand and even fewer in Congress seem to care much about.

But it has occupational safety pros rattled.

“I have to be candid,” said acting secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor, Seth Harris in a memo. “We are in for some difficult times. The department is taking steps to soften the impact of the sequester. … But it is clear from the size of the sequester that not all agencies will be able to find the savings required. These agencies will be forced to place staff on unpaid furloughs.”

When he says “these agencies”, he means OSHA.

According to an Office of Management and Budget report issued in September, the sequester will trim the following dollars from the following agencies:

  • OSHA – $46 million cut
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration – $31 million cut
  • Chemical Safety Board – $1 million cut
  • Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission – $1 million cut
  • Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission – $1 million cut

That’s 8.2 percent chopped off the top folks.

Alright, so numbers are nice to know but what does this actually mean for the average worker? In their little sequester fact sheet, the White House says “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could have to pull its inspectors off the job for some period of time. This would mean roughly 1,200 fewer inspections of the Nation’s most dangerous workplaces, which would leave workers unprotected and could lead to an increase in worker fatality and injury rates.”

In 2011, the agency did 40,648 inspections nation-wide. So the sequester chops 3 percent off the top.

So we know that the regulatory watchdogs that are supposed to keep a good eye on our bosses will be doing more with less this year. As an economy we pray that new business will boom, more jobs will be created for us and the jobs we have will be safe. Yet as we get bigger, no one is watching out for the little guy who has a pretty good chance of getting physically smashed by the increasing workload.

The answer lies in private industry. Businesses like InjuryFree Inc. make it their day-in and day-out focus to protect the safety and health of the average worker. If companies had their own in-house oversight arm, these OSHA inspection cuts wouldn’t be such a big deal. Workers would already have an advocate who sees their struggles, knows the company climate and prevents claims before they even have a chance to start.

We think that private companies can make a huge difference in worker safety. Do you?