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October 9, 2013

Government Shutdown Reduces OSHA Inspection Force by More Than 90 Percent

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration furloughed more than 90 percent of its inspectors as a result of the Oct. 1 shutdown of the federal government, leaving the agency with only enough personnel to respond to the most serious workplace emergencies.Two inspectors at each of OSHA’s 92 area offices will remain working.

OSHA head David Michaels said in the plan that the agency must have enough staff to respond to workplace fatalities, catastrophes and situations posing imminent danger.

“OSHA employees should be able to respond to safety and health complaints or other information when employees are potentially exposed to hazardous conditions that present a high risk of death or serious physical harm,” Michaels said.

OSHA will keep 230 of its 2,235 staffers working during the shutdown, according to the solicitor of labor’s estimates.

Michaels said the agency’s active staff will include: members of the executive, compliance and information technology staff in the national office; administrators and support staff in the regional offices; inspectors in the area offices; and chemists and industrial hygienists in the Salt Lake City Technical Center.

The shutdown brings the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s core activities to a halt, managing director Daniel Horowitz told Bloomberg BNA. The Chemical Safety Board is keeping active three of its 40 employees and the three board members, according to its contingency plan.

“We’ll have a skeleton crew to restart after the shutdown and keep an eye on any chemical disasters that we hope will not occur during this period,” Horowitz said. “But that is limited to just a basic screening. There are no investigators available, and we don’t anticipate that we’ll be able to respond to any disasters.”

Source: Bloomberg BNA