Federal inspectors investigating I-OSHA

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Federal safety inspectors don’t like what they found during an evaluation of Indiana safety inspectors.

Concerns were revealed in a February 25 letter to Commissioner Rick Ruble of the Indiana Department of Labor from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in Chicago.

OSHA, the federal agency, says, last year, it revealed complaints about Indiana’s I-OSHA.  But, due to the “sensitive” nature of the case, OSHA started its investigation without requesting an analysis from the state first.  OSHA said the three allegations under study “affected the quality of the [Indiana] program.”

The federal inspectors said they examined 85 cases and did numerous interviews to evaluate the concerns.  In the letter, the federal agency said it concluded all three allegations were valid — raising concerns about the handling of safety and health complaints and about whisteblower complaints.

OSHA cited the case of a dust explosion at an Indianapolis Power and Light facility in March of 2013.  No injuries were reported, it said.  But, OSHA concluded “failure to investigate the report of the explosion gives the appearance that settlement of the case was a priority over employee safety and health.”

The federal agency recommends improvements in procedures and in training.

It also suggested changes in the timetable for inspections.  The analysis concluded that IOSHA inspectors might not have enough time to document hazards and evaluate complex issues.  Using the timetables to evaluate the job performance of the inspectors could “give the appearance of negatively affecting the quality of whistleblower complaint investigations and activities.”

Robert E. Dittmer, a spokesman for IOSHA, said the complaints “apply to administrative procedures, and they have no effect on the health and safety of Hoosiers.”  He also said “most of the problems discovered already had been identified internally and were being addressed.”

Of the 22 recommendations in the report, Dittmer said IOSHA “has completed action on all but two, and those two are nearing completion.”

Dittmer’s message concluded by saying the OSHA investigation came during a time of “historic lows” in Indiana workplace incidents.  He called it “the two safest years in Indiana workplace history.”

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