Every year on April 28, government agencies and unions recognize Workers’ Memorial Day to remember people who have died in the course of employment as well as those who have been injured or become ill from work. It is a day to renew commitment to safe workplaces.
April 28 was chosen because it was the date in 1971 when the U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA. OSHA is the main federal agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety standards across the country.
How is Maryland doing on workplace safety?
OSHA has the authority to approve state programs that regulate work safety standards, educate employers and inspect workplaces for violations. In our state, OSHA has approved the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, called MOSH, to fulfill these important responsibilities.
On April 25, Katherine Tracy, a “workers’ rights policy analyst,” wrote an article in the Baltimore Sun about how MOSH is doing in light of this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day observance. Her findings are of great concern:
- MOSH had fewer staff in 2016 than it had had in seven years.
- Despite having 2.5 million workers in Maryland, MOSH only conducted around 1,100 workplace inspections in 2016.
- In 2016, there were 92 work-related fatalities, up from 74 on average annually.
- Maryland was 49th among states in the average monetary penalty for workplace violations in 2016, according to the AFL-CIO (about $655 on average for serious violations in private employment in Maryland as compared with about $2,280 on average nationally.
- MOSH is not meeting its responsibilities to protect workers from employer retaliation (like firing or demoting) because workers have reported workplace safety problems to MOSH.
Tracy calls for increased state funding for MOSH and for state prosecutors to consider criminal charges against the most egregious employers when their negligent or worse behavior has harmed workers. She notes that Maryland apparently does not do this, but other states do.
We represent injured and ill employees in workers’ compensation claims as well as survivors in workers’ compensation death benefit claims. Our lawyers also file third-party personal injury or wrongful death suits when parties other than employers contributed to work injury or death.
For example, work equipment could have been defectively designed or without proper warnings of possible danger from use. A landowner or landlord providing work premises may have ignored dangerous conditions on the premises. An employee driving while working could be struck by drunk driver.