The most effective thing the government can do to help protect workers in Virginia and across the country is to strictly enforce regulations, said the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. He stated that voluntary employer programs tend to have only limited benefits for workplace safety, because the companies involved in these programs often start out with some of the safest workplaces in the country.
On the other hand, some workplaces and industries experience extremely high rates of workplace injuries. He argued that strong standards for protection, clear regulations and meaningful enforcement are necessary to protect workers, especially those who face the highest levels of danger on the job. These kinds of universal standards affect numerous employers at the same time, as they create a rule that can work to stop injuries across an industry. On the other hand, voluntary programs bring in employers already concerned about safety and focus only on individual employers rather than affecting an entire industry.
He also noted that voluntary initiatives, especially the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program take up a significant amount of agency resources. Participating companies go through lengthy and full-scale inspections in order to win acceptance into a program that can garner regular exemptions from ongoing inspections as well as broad recognition. This can waste resources that could be used to implement full-scale enforcement across an industry with a greater impact on protecting workers who most need attention to safety issues.
Workers face serious risks of being involved in an accident every day. People who have been injured on the job can work with a workers’ compensation lawyer to secure the benefits to which they are entitled.