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Safety of all workers – not just furloughed employees – affected by government shutdown

After weeks of foreboding countdowns to a possible government shutdown, Congress failed to compromise on a budget deal last night, closing government doors to approximately 800,000 federal employees and the public.

As if the furloughs affecting those 800,000 federal employees or the required work without pay for “essential” personnel weren’tbad enough, workers nationwide have another reason to be enraged by the government shutdown.

During the government shutdown, most U.S. Department of Labor investigations into workplace safety or discrimination will be halted as the overwhelming majority of Labor Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) employees are pulled off the job, the Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson reported.  

“Of the Labor Department’s 16,304 workers, only 2,954, or 18 percent, would be permitted to work during the shutdown, according to a plan released by the agency on Monday. Of the EEOC’s 2,164 employees, only 107, or a mere 5 percent, would work through the furlough period, the commission said in a press release.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Labor Department office that performs the crucial function of monitoring workplaces, would have to stop inspections that don’t involve immediate dangers or deaths, the department wrote in the plan. That means the agency’s routine inspections — an already woefully underfunded responsibility — would generally grind to a halt during the shutdown.”

When COSH groups e-mailed their regional OSHA contacts on Tuesday morning, they got the following auto-reply:

“Thank you for your e-maill [sic]. Due to a lapse in funding, certain government activities have been suspended and I am unable to respond to your message at this time. This e-mail account will not be monitored. As soon as funding is restored, I will respond to your e-mail. Thank you for your patience.”

Heck, even Twitter could not escape the wrath of the government shutdown. U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez (@LaborSec) tweeted this morning, “I will not be tweeting or responding to @ replies during a government shutdown.”

National COSH joins a huge swath of the country in hoping for the speedy resolution of the budget impasse so that hundreds of thousands of hard-working civil servants can return to work and keep our country- including our workers- safe on the job.

America’s workers- government-funded or not- deserve nothing less.

Edit: If you do need  to report a workplace fatality, hospitalizations, or an imminent danger situation, please contact OSHA’s toll free number immediately:

1-800-321-OSHA (6742); TTY 1-877-889-5627.