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The U.S. Occupational and Health Administration needs to hire more investigators and develop plans to distribute whistleblower complaints more evenly among investigators, the U.S. Office of Inspector General said in its recommendations to the agency released Friday.
OIG conducted an audit of the way OSHA has addressed COVID-19 whistleblower complaints since the start of the pandemic. The office found that the number of whistleblower complaints has “significantly increased” while OSHA’s full-time staff has decreased, leading to “even greater delays in closing investigations.” This, said the office, leaves workers to suffer emotionally and physically and can compromise the investigations.
From Feb. 1 to May 31, the agency’s Whistleblower Program received 1,618 COVID-19 whistleblower complaints, ranging from 61 in the Pacific Northwest region, which has three investigators, to 325 in the Chicago office, which has 15 investigators.
OIG found that in the first quarter of the year, it took an average of 279 days for OSHA to close an investigation, which is nearly double the amount of time the agency took to close cases in 2010, according to the office.
The report recommended that OSHA develop a caseload management plan to evenly distribute whistleblower complaints among investigators, hire whistleblower investigators to fill the current vacancies and consider extending its current pilot program on expediting whistleblower screenings to all regions.
In its response, OSHA agreed with the recommendations and issued a directive to establish the creation, implementation and evaluation of whistleblower protection pilot programs.
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday issued revisions to its rules regarding access to employee medical records and internal procedures that federal personnel must follow when obtaining and using personally identifiable employee medical information.