Ky. OSHA complaints rose 45% in 2020, partly due to pandemic; issues are likely to linger as workplaces try to get back to normal

Courier Journal graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News

Kentucky workers filed 45 percent more occupational safety and health complaints in 2020 than in 2019, but only 8 percent of them have been investigated, reports Matt Mencarini of the Courier Journal.

The increase could have had causes other than the pandemic, since the volume of complaints can be cyclical, the state Labor Cabinet told Mencarini. But he cites examples, such as a November complaint against the Kroger Distribution Center in Louisville, alleging that employees had Covid-19 and managers were not informing others about it.
The state’s low investigation is actually above the national average, Mencarini reports. “Across the U.S., complaint investigations decreased dramatically during the pandemic,” he writes. “Critics for years have derided weak worker safety laws and enforcement, decrying dwindling budgets and staffs in worker safety agencies. The pandemic only exacerbated the problem, they say.”
Bill Londrigan, executive director of the state AFL-CIO, told Mencarini, “There needs to be some sort of recognition that even though the rates of transmission and death from Covid have decreased due to the increase in the vaccination rates, that certainly it is not in the rearview mirror. Protections should still be in place.”
“Many of the complaints lodged in 2021 suggested the national polarization around masks extended to the workplace,” Mencarini reports. “As Covid rates drop and more people return to workplaces, new challenges are arising.” Londrigan told him that some workplaces shouldn’t abandon mask-wearing, though “no one really likes it.”
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