Wisconsin Worker Deaths Climb Slightly

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Wants Better Enforcement For Worker Safety

Worker safety
Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

A new report by the nation’s largest federation of unions shows the number of worker deaths has increased slightly in Wisconsin in recent years.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) would like to see better enforcement.

The number of worker deaths ticked up slightly from 99 in 2014 to 104 in 2015, according to most recent data. Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said the report shows it would take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 142 years to inspect each workplace in the state once.

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“What can improve it is stronger enforcement for OSHA, more resources for OSHA to do inspections; and not just respond to complaints, but to make sure that different industries know that OSHA is going to come out and inspect them more or less randomly,” he said.

There are 30 federal inspectors for Wisconsin. The AFL-CIO report claims 279 inspectors are needed to meet International Labor Office standards. OSHA has about 2,200 inspectors who are responsible for monitoring the health and safety of 130 million workers nationwide.

Wisconsin ranks 26th in the United States for the most dangerous places for workers, according to the labor union report.

Neuenfeldt said he’d like to see more staffing for the federal workers safety agency. “As cuts happen at the federal level … we need to make sure that there’s resources in place for OSHA to be able to do the inspections and respond to complaints so we have some level of protection out there for workers on the job,” he said.

President Donald Trump’s America First budget would cut around $11 million in OSHA training grants. The budget states those grants are unproven and the agency should focus on its central mission of keeping workers safe.

The number of illnesses and injuries in Wisconsin have dropped in recent years while the state’s average penalty for violations outpaces the national average.