Federal audit knocks state's safety, health program

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A federal audit of Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health program raises serious concerns about a shortage of funding and staffing necessary to properly enforce workplace safety standards.

The newly released report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is part of a broader study of each state’s enforcement activities, compiled in response to a 2009 federal law.

A lack of state funding support and proper infrastructure raises questions about Indiana’s ability to effectively address deficiencies in its enforcement program, the report said.

“Increased federal oversight and technical assistance may be needed to improve Indiana’s performance,” it suggested.

Details of the audit, released Wednesday, were first reported by Indiana Legislative Insight.

State funding for Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health program has increased less than 1 percent per year over the past 20 years, the report said. Moreover, in fiscal 2009, the state’s Department of Labor, which oversees the program, absorbed a 10-percent cut in its biennial budget.

Meeting benchmark enforcement staffing levels also remains an issue. Just 23 of 47 safety positions in the state are filled, in addition to only 18 of 23 health positions.

Yet, the report found the state agency has retained a “fairly” experienced staff. Nearly half of its compliance officers have at least 10 years of experience.

Overall, the federal audit, conducted from Oct. 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009, made 45 recommendations, the majority of which involved record keeping and documentation, as well as use of federal management reports.

Indiana Department of Labor spokesman Marc Lotter declined to comment on the federal audit and instead directed questions to a rebuttal letter written by DOL Commissioner Lori Torres.   

Torres said her department has identified areas for improvement, including follow-up inspection scheduling, construction inspection targeting and additional whistleblower training programs.

“We believe we have been marching in the right direction, and that we will continue to deliver the type of service that our Indiana workers and their families have a right to expect,” she said.

In fiscal 2009, the state’s DOL reported 123 fatalities resulting from injuries suffered on the job, the lowest number since the state began tracking workplace deaths in 1991, and 20 fewer than the previous fiscal year.

Indiana issued 2,614 citations for violations in fiscal 2009, with more than half classified as serious. The average fine for a serious penalty in Indiana was $1,271, slightly lower than the national average of $1,335.

Among the key findings in the federal report:

* State compliance officers are trained at the OSHA Training Institute, but few have taken anything beyond the basic core courses.

* State compliance officers and some supervisors work largely from home or alternate locations.

* In two cases of fatalities, no follow-up inspections were conducted to assure the violations had been abated.

* Victims’ families are notified by letter of the initiation of an investigation and of its findings. The letters are not maintained in the case file, and it does not appear that copies of citations are provided to the families.

* Some serious violations are classified as “other-than-serious.” Repeat violations were not cited as such.

* Reasons for penalty reductions were not documented. The state offers a 30-percent penalty reduction if a company agrees to additional training.

“While there are issues that need to be addressed, Indiana continues to work in a positive manner to improve their program,” the report said.

And, as Torres said in her letter: “Indiana met all of its strategic goals for [fiscal year] 2009, including the most important measure of reducing injuries and fatalities to Indiana workers.”


  • GOP Governance
    That man Mitch, part of the Bubba Bush Administration is just doing what the GOP does, underfund, cut funding, refuse enforcement of Safety Standards, claiming that Business would NEVER do anything that would put harms way into the work force. As a result, we continue to suffer from the GOP deregulation, lack of enforcement, and reduction of funding. Then we wonder how such stupid accidents happen.

    We will probably need Federal oversite as long as we have GOP elected officials attempting to dismantle safety regulations and safety enforcement.
  • OSHA
    OSHA is a big government crock.

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  1. Socialized medicine works great for white people in Scandanavia. It works well in Costa Rica for a population that is partly white and partly mestizo. I don't really see Obamacare as something aimed against whites. I think that is a Republican canard designed to elicit support from white people for republican candidates who don't care about them any more than democrats care about the non-whites they pander to with their phony maneuvers. But what is different between Costa Rica nd the Scandanavian nations on one hand and the US on the other? SIZE. Maybe the US is just too damn big. Maybe it just needs to be divided into smaller self governing pieces like when the old Holy Roman Empire was dismantled. Maybe we are always trying the same set of solutions for different kinds of people as if we were all the same. Oh-- I know-- that is liberal dogma, that we are all the same. Which is the most idiotic American notion going right back to the propaganda of 1776. All men are different and their differences are myriad and that which is different is not equal. The state which pretends men are all the same is going to force men to be the same. That is what America does here, that is what we do in our stupid overseas wars, that is how we destroy true diversity and true difference, and we are all as different groups of folks, feeling the pains of how capitalism is grinding us down into equally insignificant proletarian microconsumers with no other identity whether we like it or not. And the Marxists had this much right about the War of Independence: it was fundamentally a war of capitalist against feudal systems. America has been about big money since day one and whatever gets in the way is crushed. Health care is just another market and Obamacare, to the extent that it Rationalizes and makes more uniform a market which should actually be really different in nature and delivery from place to place-- well that will serve the interests of the biggest capitalist stakeholders in health care which is not Walmart for Gosh Sakes it is the INSURANCE INDUSTRY. CUI BONO Obamacare? The insurance industry. So republicans drop the delusion pro capitalist scales from your eyes this has almost nothing to do with race or "socialism" it has to do mostly with what the INSURANCE INDUSTRY wants to have happen in order to make their lives and profits easier.

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