The chance that safety inspectors might visit a workplace in South Carolina is probably lower than a year ago. Since President Obama left office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration staff has lost 40 inspectors. An investigation of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by a major news network attributed the staff departures to layoffs.
As of October 2017, the agency that oversees workplace health and safety had not filled the vacancies. The loss of these inspectors produced a 4 percent decline in the number of inspectors for the entire country. Currently, fewer than 1,000 people perform duties that could uncover health and safety problems at U.S. workplaces.
According to the Department of Labor, OSHA has acquired a handful of new inspectors and is actively recruiting people for two dozen positions. So far, the Trump Administration has produced a substantial decline in the number of permanent federal employees. Compared to the end of 2016, the federal government now employs 16,000 fewer people, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Inspectors have the authority to cite employers for hazardous conditions and violations of health and safety laws. A person concerned about workplace safety or who has already been hurt on the job might want legal advice about how to address those problems. An attorney may assist the person with filing a safety complaint and applying for workers’ compensation benefits. Legal representation might protect a worker from retaliation if an employer resents reports about safety issues. Any attempts to block a worker from collecting benefits for an on-the-job injury might be overcome by an attorney who may be able to negotiate directly with an insurer for a settlement. An attorney might also file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for lost pay and medical expenses.