Monday, February 10, 2020
Across the U.S., an ongoing shortage of inspectors at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is putting workers' lives at risk. But IBEW locals are stepping in to help fill the gaps. Locals across multiple states are working with OSHA's Strategic Partnership Program, helping inspectors gain a more complete understanding of workplace safety. "Our participation in the SPP won't totally solve OSHA's staffing and training problems," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "But it makes perfect sense for us to leverage our training and collective know-how to help make sure the OSHA inspectors who are still on the payroll know how to identify and fix safety hazards."
There are fewer than 900 OSHA inspectors available to check up on nearly 9 million workplaces in the U.S., according to data compiled by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. Research by the National Employment Law Project found that inspector vacancies are rising as hiring of replacements is slowing, which corresponds with a nearly 10% rise in the number of workplace fatalities and injuries between 2017 and 2018. Administered through OSHA's 10 regional offices, the voluntary SPP is designed to promote a better understanding about the on-the-job hazards that workers in the construction trades face, giving unions, contractors and regulators the means to jointly conduct regular hands-on training, jobsite walk-throughs and spot checks. "Electrical workers have a real stake in relationships like this," said the IBEW's Director of Safety Dave Mullen. "If inspectors aren't properly trained, unscrupulous contractors could be tempted to try and get away with safety violations, and that could put our members - and all workers - in serious danger."