Across the nation, workplace safety is becoming more and more of a pressing concern. The average annual work injury rate in the US is 7 million per year, according to the National Safety Council. In the current state of affairs, that number is likely to increase. In Maryland, the state government is bringing in federal funding to help alleviate the most glaring issues. This includes vaccination against new variants of COVID-19 and other workplace safety issues that may arise as a result of manpower being spread thin. But it would seem that these funds are not enough.
State workplace safety measures remain spotty
There remains a troubling lack of safety measures for Maryland’s workforce, particularly for the essential workers who take up the brunt of the labor required to keep the state running. In support of these essential workers, Gov. Larry Hogan secured $74.1 million from the federal government, to invest in workplace safety and employee welfare. However, some critics are sounding the alarm about the poor allocation of these funds.
A particularly glaring example can be seen in reports stating that Governor Hogan’s agencies have denied certain essential workers hazard pay, based on a new set of criteria put out by the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. Maintenance workers were among those excluded. This is especially troubling given the fact that those in excluded blue-collar occupations still face the same likelihood of getting into an accident, but with a much more spread-thin emergency service framework and without the added safety net of hazard pay. Because of these gaps, opinions abound regarding the inadequacy of protections for Maryland’s labor force.
Essential Workers’ Protection Act might take a while to reach full efficacy
At present, the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act is the main measure in place to improve conditions for essential workers. This makes it so that employers have to take extra steps to ensure that their workers are getting the care and protection they deserve. Notable employer obligations include the preparation of safety equipment at no cost, and putting sufficient measures in place to curtail the possibility of injury.
The Act was designed to weather the shockwaves of catastrophic health emergencies as defined under Section 14 of the Public Safety Article, and is hence only active during such states of emergency. Doubts are still circulating as to whether Maryland businesses will adapt to these changes well. Workers are advised to keep in contact with their attorney in preparation for accidents of any form. In such an unsure workplace safety landscape, injury-causing blunders could arise from any direction.
Nationwide OSHA standard compliance met with delays and confusion
Across the United States, OSHA standards have been coming into force with varying degrees of compliance. A full written list of compliance directives were put out, providing general obligations to workplaces across the nation, including measures to fend off COVID-19 and other hazards that might arise from the undermanned state of things. But even in the health sector, standards are being met with confusion and pushback. It might take a while for proper safety measures to kick in for everyone, so individual workers are advised to look to their own protection for the time being. OSHA is planning several ways to ensure compliance, such as routine inspections. But while the standards are still new, vigilance on the part of the employees is recommended.
It remains to be seen whether revisions to the current definition of “essential worker,” as well as other aspects of the protection act will occur. However, it is a prevailing opinion among critics and other government officials that changes must be made in order to envelop all essential workers in a blanket of safety. Such a case of affairs, they argue, is not only deserved, but necessary to ensure the continued operation of the state.