Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler

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What the government shutdown means for workplace safety

Workplace safety is extremely important to workers in Charlotte. We rely on employers to adhere to federal safety regulations, and we expect federal agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to keep an eye on employers to ensure that they are following the rules. In the midst of a government shutdown, however, we will have to adjust our expectations.

As many North Carolina residents may know firsthand, a government shutdown means that many federal employees have been forced to stop working. Among those federal employees are most of the people who work for the Labor Department.

The good news is that workers' compensation claims that were being processed before the shutdown will continue to move through the system. Charlotte workers who are waiting on much-needed compensation will not be forced to wait longer.

Unfortunately, because OSHA is an office of the Labor Department, the shutdown will have a negative impact on workplace safety across the country. Until the government is up and running again, OSHA investigators will only be able to look into serious workplace accidents or safety issues that involve death or some other immediate negative impact on employees. The only workplaces that will continue to be inspected regularly are mines. No other routine inspections will be performed.

While it is certainly important that workers' compensation claims continue to be processed while lawmakers work out a way to reopen the government, routine safety inspections are crucial for making sure Charlotte employers maintain safe premises. Hopefully the shutdown will be short-lived.

Source: Huffington Post, "Government Shutdown To Hit Labor Department Workplace Safety, EEOC Discrimination Investigations," Dave Jamieson, Sept. 30, 2013

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