The Department of Labor said in a report that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security failed to “take advantage of opportunities for cooperation with external agencies” to maintain workplace safety in high-risk industries in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic.
The report from DOL’s Office of Inspector General, which was released on Tuesday, said that OSHA received 15% more complaints in 2020 than 2019, and carried out 50% fewer inspections. “This meant that employees were left vulnerable to covid-19 as a danger in the workplace,” the report states.
“Such employees worked in industries with some of the highest risks of covid-19 exposure, including meat processing plants, nursing homes, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, department stores and penitentiary institutions. More than 1million mission-critical workers became infected with covid-19 and survived in some cases. not ”, the report states.
The OIG stated that “OSHA had not cooperated with the executives or regulators of external federal agencies to help protect mission-critical U.S. workers during the covid-19 pandemic” and “did not cooperate to encourage referrals of potential safety and health risks to covid-19 from external federal government personnel active in high-risk covid-19 exposure industries. “
The report noted that such high-risk industries have personnel on site from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service; Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and the Department of Justice Prison Bureau.
“OSHA saw the cooperation with these external authorities as separate from its oversight capacity, rather than as a way to improve its compliance,” the report noted, adding that the lack of coordination occurred when OSHA’s oversight team “already had a historically low number of inspectors.”