Incompetence Rampant At Indiana OSHA


March 10, 2014 / Worker Injury

What would you do if your child brought an evaluation home from school that said he or she dawdled, made sloppy mistakes, was unprepared, broke the rules, failed to meet deadlines, and was generally “less than cooperative”? You’d sit that child down and communicate some expectations and consequences, right?

That’s just what happened recently when the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the Indiana OSHA. The federal agency launched an investigation in April 2013 in response to allegations that the Indiana agency was dilatory about processing complaints and that they were unconcerned, at the least, about the rights of whistleblowers. On February 25, 2014, OSHA sent a 19-page letter to the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor communicating what they found in their investigation and setting forth their expectations. The DOL has 30 days to respond.

Here are some of the findings in OSHA’s report:

  • IOSHA took four times longer than allowed to initiate inspections and had a backlog of nearly 100 unprocessed complaints, some up to six weeks old. Their new goal is five days.
  • IOSHA staff were not familiar with the 22 whistleblower statutes protecting the rights of workers who file complaints of unsafe working conditions.
  • Whistleblowers were not told about their right to appeal but instead were told they could either accept the settlement amount presented by the employer or their case would be dismissed.
  • The agency was “less than cooperative” (that’s a direct quote) when it came to providing workers with the documents they would need in order to file a timely case in court.
  • Indiana OSHA implemented inspection quotas which deterred complex investigations.
  • IOSHA engaged in unilateral agreements with employers even when the adverse employment action was termination.
  • They failed to make inspections in several noted cases where the health and safety of workers were in danger. In one instance, workers reported a dust explosion at Indianapolis Power & Light, but no inspection was conducted and the complaint wasn’t recorded. The OSHA report says, “Failure to investigate the report of the explosion gives the appearance that settlement of the case was a priority over employee safety and health.”
  • IOSHA decided not to inspect Sensient Flavors, a Southwestside flavoring plant, after an employee was shocked and hospitalized, even though the company was already facing one of the largest fines in state history for, among other things, exposing workers to unsafe amounts of a chemical associated with a potentially fatal lung disease.

You can read the report in its entirety. In essence, OSHA told the Indiana agency what we would tell our wayward child: This is completely unacceptable. Now here’s what you’re going to do to correct the problem.

Stephenson Rife, Indianapolis workplace injury lawyers, are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers and whistleblowers. When others breach their duty, we keep ours. If you or a loved one has suffered an Indiana injury on the job due to unsafe conditions, even if IOSHA doesn’t want to hear about it, we do. Call us at 1-317-825-5200.

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