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Workplace hazards fail to be found swiftly by federal government

Workers in Denver may want to be aware of their rights when becoming injured on the job, and families should also be aware of the same rights if a member should perish from an injury sustained at work.

This knowledge may be helpful to many, since officials from the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act are finding it difficult to make sure state workplaces are safe and healthy to work in. In 25 states that operate a statewide system of workplace safety and inspection, OSHA discovered multiple violations and penalties that the state systems had either not discovered or failed to monitor, for which many of the employers were not held responsible.

OSHA lacks an accurate and efficient way to evaluate the programs issued by states, according to a 2011 U.S. Labor Department report. However, OSHA does have plans to repair the problem by developing a new system that would review state enforcement of workplace safety.

Had OSHA an effective system in place, a woman from outside Colorado may not have been killed after she was seriously burned while at work. The woman was in the middle of pouring a solvent called toluene into a plastic bin when chemicals that had been stored in open containers ignited. As the fire grew, she was covered in flames. Tragically, she died 11 days after the incident. She had received third-degree burns on 90 percent of her body.

The company in which the woman worked was fined with more than $100,000 for 16 workplace safety violations. The fines and violations were later dropped by the state system, but an OSHA director later reinstated the fine and all violations.

If states and OSHA fail to find and monitor similar workplaces in Denver, employees may be at real risk for serious injury.

Source: McClatchy, "OSHA struggles to monitor state workplace-safety programs," Jim Morris, Aug. 16, 2012

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