‘Undesirable’ employee security issues under evaluation in Kentucky– Center for Public Stability

Kentucky’s occupational safety and health program has “a number of unacceptable issues” that are under internal evaluation, according to Acting Labor Secretary David Dickerson.

Dickerson composed in an op-ed released Tuesday in the Lexington Herald-Leader that the “hard work of turning the program around is well in progress” after the agency received a crucial federal audit in 2015.

The federal report was first advertised in November as part of an unique examination by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, the Ohio Valley ReSource and the Center for Public Stability. (Check out Deadly Defects: How Kentucky Is Failing Its Workers)

The joint examination discovered that Kentucky’s Occupational Security and Health company had failed to effectively investigate nearly every worker death in a two-year period. In most cases, inspectors didn’t interview eyewitnesses and didn’t resolve major security dangers.

The Labor Cabinet rejected or ignored many demands for interviews from KyCIR, both previously and after the story released. Tuesday’s op-ed was the first public reaction from the Labor Cabinet to the examination.

Cabinet leadership is evaluating the KY OSH program and carrying out modifications, according to the op-ed. Dickerson said the new commissioner of the Department of Workplace Standards, Dwayne Depp, has actually increased training requirements for private investigators and instituted compulsory deadlines to speed up examinations.

Dickerson didn’t straight address the strength of the firm’s death examinations, other than to say media were “cherry-picking” from the federal report to “support narrow claims that the program conducts inadequate casualty examinations.”

The federal report itself zoomed in on Kentucky’s death examinations in a “unique study” consisted of in the yearly audit. Much of KyCIR’s reporting was drawn from that study, which professionals said was an uncommon action for the federal firm to take.

Due to shortcomings in the fatality examinations, the report concluded, Kentucky’s “workers are constantly exposed to major dangers that stay unabated.”

“There is still much work to be performed in the [KY OSH] program,” Dickerson composed in the op-ed, “but we are seeing year-over-year improvements in worker safety, which these media reports stop working to discuss.”

The investigation noted that injury and disease rates are dropping in Kentucky. That shows a nationwide trend that has actually been ongoing since 2004. But Kentucky’s rates stay above the national average: the non-fatal event rate was 3.3 individuals per 100 full-time employees in 2017. The nationwide rate that year was 2.8 individuals per 100 full-time staff members.

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

In its main reaction to the federal audit in August, the Labor Cabinet stated it was implementing some changes, but defended its death examinations and disagreed with some findings.

The federal Department of Labor put Kentucky’s worker safety company on a restorative action strategy as a result of that federal audit.

Dickerson stated in the op-ed that the Labor Cabinet is working carefully with federal OSHA to enhance the effectiveness of the program and will look for the support of the legislature if necessary.

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

Rep. Russell Webber, a Republican Politician from Shepherdsville and the chair of your house Economic Development and Labor force Investment committee, did not respond to an ask for an interview about worker safety issues. The Labor Cabinet did not react to a demand for extra remark.



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