How did Nebraska fare in the recent AFL-CIO Death on the Job annual report? Generally speaking, better than some but not as well as all the other states.
Here’s some helpful information that quantifies how things are going for working Nebraskans when it comes to safety at work, looking through information from many sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“When it comes to job safety enforcement and coverage, it is clear OSHA lacks sufficient resources to protect workers adequately. A combination of too few OSHA inspectors and law penalties makes the threat of an OSHA inspection hollow for too many employers,” according to the report.
Staffing levels are stark at federal OSHA. Nebraska is one of 10 states (others include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia) where “it would take 150 years or more for OSHA to pay a single visit to each workplace,” based on current staffing levels, with the actual number in Nebraska being 163 years. Though at the current level of state and federal OSHA inspectors there is one inspector for every 71,695 workers, Nebraska is one of the states where “the ratio of inspectors to employees is greater than 1 per 100,000 workers.” That means for the 932,768 employees in the state in 2013, there were 9 actual inspectors, leading to a ratio of 1/103,641, according to the table “Number of OSHA Inspectors by State Compared with ILO Benchmark Number of Labor Inspectors.” Note that Nebraska relies on the federal program only, so unlike Iowa, there is no state OSHA program.
Here’s some statistics from the table “Profile of Workplace Safety and Health in the United States.” For Nebraska, there were 39 fatalities in 2013, meaning a rate of 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers, ranking the state 31st in the nation for worker fatalities that year.
In addition, there were 24,700 worker injuries or illnesses reported in 2013, resulting in a rate that was 3.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers. OSHA’s penalties in fiscal year 2014 averaged $2,569, or 4th in the nation, for “averages per serious citation for conditions creating a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm to workers,” according to the same table cited above.
The table “State-by-State OSHA Fatality Investigations, FY 2014” shows that 12 OSHA fatality investigations were conducted in Nebraska in fiscal year 2014. A total of $268,671 in penalties was proposed, with the average penalty per investigation being $22,389. The median initial penalty proposed by OSHA was $10,800, while the median current penalty is $4,800.
Businesses often negotiate down their penalties with OSHA, and OSHA also tends to decrease or eliminate penalties once there is evidence of the safety issues being fixed. This is because OSHA’s ultimate focus is on workplace safety, not on holding businesses’ accountable for workers’ injuries or deaths.
To get your questions answered about specific Nebraska or Iowa workplace safety concerns, please contact lawyers who are experienced in workers’ compensation law.