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The Toll of Neglect

For 29 years, the National AFL-CIO has drafted a national state-by-state report on annual worker safety and health titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect. At a time when an infectious disease has impacted communities nationwide, the report offered critical insight into the dramatic failure on behalf of federal and state OSHA agencies to protect working people from COVID-19. According to the report:

  • America’s workplaces have been a primary source of COVID-19 outbreaks, with thousands of workers infected and dying.

  • Federal OSHA and MSHA have refused to issue enforceable, emergency temporary standards for COVID-19.

  • Federal OSHA has cited only nine employers for not protecting workers from COVID-19

In addition to falling short federally, the report also outline’s Oregon OSHA’s reluctance to hold employers accountable for violating workplace safety standards. During the fiscal year 2019, the average penalty assessed for serious OSHA violations in Oregon was a mere $579, compared to $2,819 nationally. Similarly, the average total penalty per fatality investigation was only $2,895, falling far below the national average of $17,830. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 24 Oregonians have died as a result of workplace outbreaks, adding to the more than 500 Oregonians who have died from COVID-19.

Despite the troubling findings outlined in the National AFL-CIO’s annual report, Oregon OSHA has not yet ensured strong, enforceable, on-the-job protections from infectious diseases like COVID-19. As the state regulatory body continues to revise its temporary standard surrounding infectious diseases, it remains to be seen if Oregon OSHA is serious about protecting workers on the job.

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