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Problems linger for state-administered workplace safety programs

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was formed by the federal government in the 1970s, individual states had the option to enforce workplace safety regulations on a state level. In total, 26 states, North Carolina included, decided to administer their own programs with some federal oversight.

Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that federal officials are having trouble monitoring the effectiveness of state-run OSHA programs. In many of these states, enforcement of regulations, penalties and fines is inconsistent. In numerous cases, fines for workplace injuries and subsequent safety violations have been overturned or uncollected. This presents numerous risks for North Carolina workers.

The family of a woman who was fatally injured at a tire-manufacturing plant is working to point out the pitfalls of ineffectively monitored state OSHA offices. Their loved one sustained third-degree burns on 90 percent of her body in a flash fire. A total of 16 serious violations and $105,000 in fines were leveled against the employer, but were later overturned by state OSHA officials. That decision put the family in a position to seek justice for their loved one.

In North Carolina, the state agency has failed to collect fines for safety violations on multiple occasions. By not doing so, the employers that violated state regulations were not held to account and the safety concerns may still exist.

At this point, the U.S. Department of Labor has yet to figure out a way to measure the success of state-operated programs. Though federal officials are aware of the problems that exist, having no way to determine what needs to be changed by state agencies puts employees in a precarious situation.

North Carolina workers deserve to work in an environment that is supportive and, at the very least, safe. When workers are injured on the job because of an employer's failure to implement state-mandated regulations, they may have the ability to seek legal recourse in the form of workers' compensation. Being aware that workplace safety codes may go unenforced in North Carolina, it is important to be aware of your rights in the event of a workplace injury.


  • Our firm has experience dealing with a variety of workers' compensation-related claims. To learn more, consider visiting our Greensboro workplace injury page.

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