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Is Michigan Safety Agency “Low-Balling” Workplace Fatalities?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

Is Michigan Safety Agency “Low-Balling” Workplace Fatalities?

National COSH calls for “thorough review” of MIOSHA leadership;
Commends AG Nessel’s Pledge to Investigate

LANSING, MICHIGAN: In the wake of controversial rulings which appear to minimize employer responsibility for workplace injuries and fatalities, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) is calling for a “thorough review” of the current leadership of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a letter to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, National COSH safety and health project consultant Peter Dooley, who is based in Michigan, expressed “serious concerns” about the effectiveness of MIOSHA.  The agency is tasked with enforcing federal and state safety laws to protect workers from preventable workplace injuries, illness and fatalities.

Commending the attorney general’s pledge to investigate all aspects of a recent controversial MIOSHA decision, National COSH notes that recent media reports “reveal practices that are inconsistent with the agency’s mission.”

"By deferring to employers and allegedly mistreating its own inspectors", writes Dooley, “[t]he agency appears to be  more interested in low-balling its count of work-related fatalities than its responsibility as an enforcement agency.”

Attorney General Nessel is reviewing a recent case that was the subject of a Detroit Free Press investigation, when MIOSHA classified the 2017 death of electrician after a fall at during construction of Little Caesar’s Arena as a suicide.  To reach this conclusion, MIOSHA overruled findings by the Wayne County medical examiner and one of the agency’s own inspectors that the fatality was a preventable workplace accident.

As part of a rigorous investigation, National COSH recommends that the Michigan Attorney General “interview current and former MIOSHA staff, as well as family members of workers who suffered fatal work-related injuries in Michigan. Such individuals may provide your office with insight into MIOSHA’s level of effectiveness and possible opportunities for improvement.”

National COSH also notes that MIOSHA fines proposed against employers who commit serious violations of health and safety standards are below the acceptable range recommended by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Workplace injuries and illnesses are very preventable,” writes Dooley. “ MIOSHA has been a leader in the past” in establishing best practices for regulating workplace safety, but “recent investigations have pointed to a downward enforcement pattern.”

A copy of the letter to Attorney General Nessel is available on the National COSH website here.

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.