Last fall when Hurricane Sandy tore through New York and the northeastern United States, it left a massive amount of wreckage in its wake. As the storm receded, the clean up began. In many areas, workers flooded into help clean up the wreckage. However, new reports claim these workers are not all that safe. In many areas, the risk of a workplace accident is increased as safety regulations are ignored.
Inspectors for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been in New York and neighboring states and have seen many instances of problems. In fact, OSHA has found 3,100 instances of unsafe working conditions. After discovering the unsafe conditions, OSHA has removed 7,900 employees from their workplaces and has given over $140,000 in fines to businesses for the violations.
However, workers’ rights advocates do not believe OSHA has gone far enough to protect workers. They say that in most cases, OSHA has only given verbal warnings to employers. Only 31 of the employers that OSHA investigated were actually punished for the unsafe conditions.
While people may debate whether OSHA is going far enough in protecting workers, this debate will not help those that have already been injured or killed. Workplace injuries can be serious and cause life-long effects. These injuries can make it difficult for workers to work, require weeks or months of rehabilitation and leave a family with large medical bills. These effects are even worse when a worker is killed — there have even been two workers killed during the Hurricane Sandy cleanup.
Workers’ compensation is available for those workers who are hurt in workplace accidents and for the families of those killed. Workers’ compensation can help to pay for the expenses and allow people to focus on healing instead of worry about bills.
Source: New York Daily News, “Safety rules often ignored in post-Hurricane Sandy cleanup, many workers put at risk,” Erica Pearson and Greg B. Smith, April 28, 2013