Fact Sheet: System Letdown Government Failures

Thursday, April 14, 2022

System Letdown: Worker Safety, Harm and Compensation in the Age of COVID-19


Worker Harm Has Not Been Tracked

No government agency has tracked worker deaths and infections caused by COVID transmission on the job. According to an AFL-CIO May 2021 report,

·      During the COVID-19 pandemic, “[W]orkplace infection and outbreak information is limited because there is no national surveillance system.”

·      “There remains no comprehensive national surveillance system to collect case information by industry and occupation, and employer reporting of COVID-19 cases still is mandatory only in a few states with specific standards or orders.

·      “Despite the massive toll of COVID-19 on working people and the critical role of workplace exposures, [the Bureau of Labor Statistics] currently does not have a plan for counting and reporting workplace COVID-19 fatalities.”

OSHA Abdicated Its Mandate to Protect Workers

·      OSHA failed to issue national COVID-specific binding safety regulations despite calls from labor unions and Congress to do so. It eliminated any COVID-related record-keeping requirements for employers. It allowed the number of inspectors to fall to the lowest level in 45 years as inspections dramatically declined. It issued paltry fines even for the worst violators. OSHA failed to protect whistleblowers.

·      A 2021 Wall Street Journal investigation “identified more than 1,000 worker deaths from Covid-19 that circumstances suggest were linked to workplace transmission of the virus but that were never investigated by an OSHA agency.” The article noted that OSHA “faced one of the biggest workplace-safety challenges in its 50-year history when the coronavirus struck. It didn’t meet the moment.”

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[*]Sources for all facts can be found in Center for Justice & Democracy, System Letdown: Worker Safety, Harm and Compensation in the Age of Covid-19 (April 2022).


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