Ky. Labor Cabinet: ‘Inappropriate’ Worker Security Issues Under Review

Kentucky’s occupational safety and health program has “a variety of unacceptable problems” that are under internal review, according to Performing Labor Secretary David Dickerson.

Dickerson wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Lexington Herald-Leader that the “difficult work of turning the program around is well in progress “after the company got a crucial federal audit

last year. The federal report was first advertised in November as part of Fatal Flaws, an unique examination by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, the Ohio Valley ReSource and the Center for Public Integrity.

(Read Fatal Flaws: How Kentucky Is Failing Its Employees)

The joint examination found that Kentucky’s Occupational Security and Health agency failed to effectively examine almost every worker casualty in a two-year duration. In numerous cases, inspectors didn’t interview eyewitnesses and didn’t address severe safety dangers.

The Labor Cabinet rejected or neglected many demands for interviews from KyCIR, both before and after the story published. Tuesday’s op-ed was the first public response from the Labor Cabinet to

the investigation. Cabinet management is evaluating the KY OSH program and carrying out modifications, according to the op-ed. Dickerson said the brand-new commissioner of the Department of Work Environment Standards, Dwayne Depp, has increased training requirements for investigators and instituted mandatory due dates to speed up examinations.

Dickerson didn’t straight address the strength of the company’s casualty investigations, except to say media were “cherry-picking” from the federal report to “support narrow claims that the program performs insufficient fatality investigations.”

The federal report itself zoomed in on Kentucky’s death investigations in a “special research study” consisted of in the yearly audit. Much of KyCIR’s reporting was drawn from that study, which professionals stated was an unusual action for the federal agency to take.

Due to drawbacks in the fatality investigations, the report concluded, Kentucky’s “employees are constantly exposed to serious threats that remain unabated.”

“There is still much work to be done in the [KY OSH] program,” Dickerson wrote in the op-ed, “but we are seeing year-over-year enhancements in employee security, which these media reports fail to discuss.”

The examination noted that injury and disease rates are dropping in Kentucky. That reflects a nationwide pattern that has actually been continuous considering that 2004. But Kentucky’s rates remain above the nationwide average: the non-fatal event rate was 3.3 persons per 100 full-time staff members in 2017. The nationwide rate that year was 2.8 persons per 100 full-time staff members.

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Federal OSHA has the power to withhold funding, intervene in and even take control of state-run programs that do not meet federal requirements.

In its official action to the federal audit in August, the Labor Cabinet stated it was carrying out some modifications, however safeguarded its death investigations and disagreed with some findings.

The federal Department of Labor put Kentucky’s employee security company on a corrective action plan as an outcome of that federal audit.

Dickerson said in the op-ed that the Labor Cabinet is working closely with federal OSHA to improve the effectiveness of the program, and will seek the assistance of the legislature if necessary.

(Fatal Defects: )

Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican Politician from Paducah, chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor. He stated he was still getting up to speed on labor concerns, but office security is a priority.

Rep. Russell Webber, a Republican from Shepherdsville and the chair of the House Economic Advancement and Labor force Financial investment committee, did not react to an ask for an interview about worker safety issues.

The Labor Cabinet did not react to ask for extra comment.

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