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Government Shutdown affecting OSHA

The recent shutdown of the federal government due to legislative battles in the U.S. Congress has led many to wonder about how various agencies will be affected. As a division of the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seems likely to have its operations cut back, if not completely suspended.

The OSHA website currently states that it is not being monitored, but that employees who need to report a workplace hazard, safety violation, fatality or hospitalization¬ should call the agency‚Ä™s toll-free hotline at¬ 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or TTY 1-877-889-5627.

According to¬ Industrial Safety & Hygiene News,¬ OSHA is currently working with a skeleton crew and will not be performing routine site inspections for the duration of the shutdown. While the agency will still be taking calls from employees who need to report incidents, it seems unlikely that it will be able to investigate those reports with the same diligence as it would in the absence of the shutdown.

In addition to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which reviews appeals cases filed in response to OSHA citations and fines, has been closed completely, and the¬ U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is operating at half capacity.

Even with these cutbacks, employers should still adhere to their safety programs by providing workers with adequate protective clothing and equipment. Although OSHA may not be able to address all complaints and incidents as quickly as they had before, most political observers expect the shutdown will end soon and agencies will resume operations. In light of these facts, it‚Ä™s a good idea to make sure your employees have an adequate supply of¬ safety clothing to protect them against injury in the workplace.

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