Workplace Safety, OSHA and Workers: How to survive.
Why: Over 5300 workers are killed every year in the workplace — 14 every day from traumatic incidents. In a normal year, around 50 thousand more die of work related disease. That number was much higher in 2020 with work-related COVID deaths, although we may never know the true number. Meanwhile, 4 million workers are seriously injured every year. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Act gives workers a right to a safe workplace, and provides for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce that right, workplace safety and health protections are increasingly under attack. OSHA is a tiny agency and under constant attack from the Trump administration and the business community. Today, the agency is only able to inspect workplaces on average, only once every 163 years.
In order to prevent getting hurt or ill in the workplace, workers and the groups that assist them need information about workplace hazards, the tools to fight for workplace safety and information about how to ensure that a workplace is safe. They also need to understand the political context in which these rights exist, and how to ensure that they aren’t weakened.
There are millions of people in this country who go to work every day fearing that they won’t come home alive or healthy at the end of the day; or that they won’t live long enough to enjoy their retirement. Some are in unions, most aren’t. Most speak English, a lot don’t. Some know their rights, most don’t. They all need to know that there are technical resources out there. And they all need to know that politics matters, voting matters — in national and local elections. Politics and voting affect workers’ likelihood of coming home alive and healthy, how much they’re getting paid and what their rights are. Everything is connected — tax cuts, growing deficits, federal budgets, executive orders, regulatory “reform” — it all affects workplace safety every day. What happens inside the Beltway matters outside the beltway
About me: My name is Jordan Barab. I was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, and I spent 16 years running the safety and health program at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). I also worked for the House Education and Labor Committee, the Chemical Safety Board, the AFL-CIO and an earlier stint at OSHA during the Clinton administration.
This newsletter follows my original blog, Confined Space (2003-2007) and a continuation of Confined Space 2.0, at this same site, which I wrote from 2017 to 2019.
Support Confined Space: I’ve found writing much more worthwhile if people actually read what I’m writing and act on it. The more Confined Space is linked in newsletters of unions and worker rights groups; the more articles are linked in Facebook and Twitter, the more people will read, and hopefully act on what they read. (Hint, hint…)
Also, I’m writing this while living through the netherworld of retirement, grandbaby care, occasional consulting and whatever time I have to write. While my labor comes free, computer hardware and application upkeep don’t. So, if you have a few extra bucks lying around, feel free to make liberal use the “Tip Jar” on the right hand side of main page, early and often.
Who Am I? Why Am I Here (March 30, 2003)
Goodbye: The Final Curtain Comes Down (January 24, 2007)
We’re Back! (March 11, 2017)
Moving on. Goodbye Again (Feb 11, 2019)
Confined Space is Back (Oct 15, 2021)