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OSHA standards do most to protect workers

Federal laws require Pennsylvania employers to maintain safe work environments for their employees. According to David Michaels, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the best way to accomplish that goal is for the federal government to concentrate its efforts on safety standards, inspection and enforcement.

Speaking before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Michaels said that safety standards are the most effective tool OSHA has to reduce workplace injuries and hazards. He explained that most employers want to protect their workers and want to obey the law, so they do their best to follow all OSHA standards that apply to their industry. This is true even if a company is not inspected.

On the other hand, Michaels said OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs, which recognize the safest companies in the U.S., have little impact on employee safety. He said that OSHA inspectors must conduct wall-to-wall inspections at the worksites of companies applying for VPP status, and, since these companies are already safety leaders, such inspections are a waste of OSHA's limited funds. Although the Trump administration plans to expand VPP, he said that OSHA should instead focus its efforts on companies with serious workplace hazards and high worker injury rates.

Most Pennsylvania workers injured on the job are eligible to file for workers' compensation benefits. If approved, these benefits provide medical coverage and wage replacement payments while claimants undergo rehabilitation for their injury. Injured workers could learn more about the claims process by contacting a workers' compensation attorney.

Source: Safety BLR, "Former OSHA head: No substitute for enforcement", March 2, 2018

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