What Happens to OSHA During a Government Shutdown?
Last week, the government faced a three-day shut-down until Congress approved a continuing resolution on Jan. 22. This current resolution is only a short-term solution, lasting until Feb. 8 when many agencies may have to put their contingency plans into effect.
So where will that leave OSHA? The Department of Labor released their formal contingency plan to serve as a guideline should another shutdown occur next month. The memorandum includes a chart organized by agency of employees who would remain full-time to follow through with critical duties such as:
- Investigating workplace fatalities and catastrophes
- Inspecting “imminent danger situations”
- Following up on inspections of businesses with “high gravity serious violations” without abatement
- Investigating safety and health complaints from first responders, media or employers in cases where employees may be at risk of serious physical harm or death
- Enforcing cases where the six-month statute of limitations is about to run out, and where employees may be at risk of harmful or fatal conditions
Who Would Stay and Who Would Go
Of OSHA’s 1,934 employees, 372 workers would stay on during the shutdown to handle these critical duties. The aforementioned memo also provided a list of employees that would be an exception to the shutdown, including all regional administrators and area directors.
Some agencies have special circumstances, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation. Its staff of 1,144 employees would not be furloughed as their positions are “funded by other sources, including multi-year appropriations, indefinite appropriations or contract authority.”
The Mine Safety and Health Administration also has exceptions. The agency is required by law to inspect all coal mines several times per year. They would keep on over half of their 2,054 full-time employees on duty, yet only 14 would remain at the national level. These employees would continue inspecting “targeted mines and specific hazards,” incidents and complaints, as well as sample analysis.
This contingency plan lets worksite employers know that there will be no break from inspections and penalties. Staying compliant is still as important as ever. Be prepared in the event of an OSHA visit by adding medical surveillance to your health and safety plan.