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If workplace safety enforcement by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration decreases under President Donald Trump’s administration, as many industry observers expect, one possible consequence could be an increase in private enforcement via personal injury lawsuits.
While willful violations handed out by OSHA frequently trigger personal injury lawsuits, personal injury attorneys who want to file a lawsuit on behalf of an injured worker or family of a deceased worker don’t have to wait for an OSHA violation to file a lawsuit against an employer, said Phillip Russell, a Tampa Florida-based attorney with law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart P.C.
Maintaining a safe workplace and avoiding accidents and injuries in the first place is at least as critical in an environment of decreased enforcement as it is when enforcement is high, Mr. Russell said.
“I’m concerned that all the headlines lately about decreased enforcement might encourage some employers to decrease their emphasis on their own compliance measures,” he said. “I think that would be a mistake. I’m advising my clients to maintain diligence and focus on compliance regardless of government enforcement.”
Injured workers and their families increasingly are turning away from the “Grand Bargain” of the U.S. workers compensation system and heading to court, particularly targeting employer actions deemed willful violations of workplace safety rules.