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Enforcement of workplace safety measures often lax

While there are avenues for financial recovery following a workplace accident or illness in Maryland, many feel that there is not enough that is done by way of prevention. Small safety measures can often go a long way, yet these small measures are often ignored by employers that are looking to save costs at the expense of their workers' health.

Some workers might think that the federal regulators of workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will surely intervene where safety is lacking if the worker files a complaint and an inspection is conducted. Unfortunately, OSHA devotes most of its budget to addressing known dangers or responding where a terrible accident has happened, instead of actively looking for risks to rectify.

Many also criticize that OSHA does not go far enough in mandating changes where there are known safety risks. After several employees at a furniture plant out of state issued complaints about the glue fumes, OSHA found dangerous levels of chemicals in the air that workers were breathing. Many were suffering neurological damage and eventually were rendered unable to walk because of the fumes. OSHA advised the employer that $18 dollar masks would protect the employees from the vapors.

Instead the company issued useless dust masks that cost less than $1. The other feigned attempts at reform were useless, and employees continued to fall ill. Unfortunately, OSHA said in a report that they were unable to make the employer comply with these measures because the glue being used was not regulated by a federal safety standard to back up fines, even though so many employees were falling ill.

While the company has settled some claims of workers' compensation from exposure to the glue, the practice continues. Any employee that thinks they are unsafe in their work environment cannot assume that OSHA will save them. Unfortunately, if an individual is ill and thinks it was due to an occupational exposure, their best advocate for seeing recourse will not be OSHA, but an experienced legal attorney.

Source: The New York Times, "As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester," Ian Urbina, March 30, 2013

  • Our firm has experience handling cases of this nature in Maryland. For more information, please refer to our page on workers' compensation.

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