How Well Does OSHA Protect Its Own Workers?

By Nash, James L. | Occupational Hazards, February 2005 | Go to article overview

How Well Does OSHA Protect Its Own Workers?


Nash, James L., Occupational Hazards


Critics of OSHA charge the agency has been too slow in addressing the exposure of its employees to beryllium and retaliated against the one official who pushed for blood tests. If the agency isn't doing enough to protect the health of its own employees from both workplace hazards and punitive employers, they ask, how well can it fulfill its mission to protect the U.S. work force from these two perils?

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the first results of beryllium tests show that 1.5 percent of the inspectors examined so far have become sensitized to beryllium. This is precisely the number predicted by Adam Finkel, a former OSHA regional administrator who called upon the agency to offer such blood tests years ago--and says he suffered retaliation for doing so.

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If the 1.5 percent rate holds up, Finkel said as many as 45 current or former inspectors may already be sensitized to beryllium.

"If we can't protect the people closest to us," he asked, "what does that say about how well we are protecting the other 100 million workers we are supposed to be protecting?" Finkel emphasized he spoke for himself and not the agency.

The former regional administrator filed a whistleblower complaint on the beryllium issue in 2003, charging that he suffered retaliation because he was pushing for beryllium testing that neither the OSHA administrator at the time, John Henshaw, nor his deputy, Davis Layne, wanted. …

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