Government Shutdown Roundup, Week 2: Employment Law Issues, Worker Safety and more

October 9th, 2013 by Julie Ferguson

In week two of the government shutdown, we see no promising signs that a solution is imminent. We’ve tracked news and events related to workers comp, health & safety and employment law issues. View our first Shutdown update here – let’s hope this is the last ion our series!)
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
After three recent mining fatalities, Ken Ward asks Can miners afford for MSHA to miss inspections?. While these deaths cannot be directly attributed to the shutdown, he explains the importance of inspections in protecting the lives of miners in light of the dangers of the mining industry and “the history of the industry’s refusal to comply with safety rules, and MSHA’s own weaknesses even when it’s at full staffing.” As Ward’s reporting has demonstrated numerous times, the industry is not one that sets a high bar for its own safety standards (a recent example)
He explains why MSHA has a dedicated mission:

Congress was concerned enough about these dangers that it set mining apart from other workplaces, and actually mandated periodic inspections of four times a year for underground mines and twice a year for surface mines. Other dangerous industries — whether oil and gas drilling, timbering, or construction — don’t have this mandate. Workers in those industries can go years without ever seeing an inspector from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

… and notes the historic effect of prior cutbacks in inspections:

Over the years, MSHA has had enough problems making its “twos and fours”, and has only recently began to build back up an inspection force that saw huge staffing and budget cuts that paved the way for a series of mining disasters, from Sago, Aracoma and Kentucky Darby, to Crandall Canyon and Upper Big Branch. And we’ve learned from repeated reports published only after mining disasters (see here, here and here) what can happen when MSHA isn’t on top of things in the nation’s mines.

Injured Workers
Attorney Jon Gelman discusses other untoward effects that the shutdown is having in the workers” comp arena in his post, Government Shutdown: Day 8 – Injured Workers Are Being Held for Ransom. He notes that:

“The Federal programs that adjudicate injured workers claims are closed. The State programs are beginning to feel the impact of the that lack of information flow from the collateral medical lien resolution process so resolution of claims are now stalled.

New Federal programs enacted under The SMART Act, to expedite the lien resolution programs have been halted in the public comment phases, and may face further delay in implementation and regulatory amendment.

The funding process for NIH grants to prevent and treat occupational disease and illnesses, as well as data collection and reporting, have been slowed if not stopped in their tracks.”

Employment Law Matters

Health & Safety Matters

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