Hoosier employees express workplace safety concerns

Indiana News

INDIANAPOLIS — Some essential workers in Indiana say they do not feel safe working right now. They’re asking the state to do more to protect them.

State Democrats featured these employees in a press conference Wednesday.

Throughout this pandemic, USW Local 1066 President Mark Lash said Hoosier workers have been without proper personal protective gear.

“That’s really the one thing we are struggling with now is being able to get effective facial coverings or masks,” said Lash.

A lack of PPE was a common problem with several workers who joined the online conference.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb just launched a PPE marketplace where Hoosier businesses with 150 or fewer employees can get bundles of hand sanitizer, masks, and face shields.

The state is expecting to fill 10,000 requests in the first week, but some Democrats say that isn’t enough.

“That’s woefully inadequate,” said State Sen. Niezgodski. “I don’t even know what that might add up to your typical small business.”

Senate Democrats are also calling on tougher enforcement for workplace safety violations.

“I would hope that the governor would perhaps put together a task force which would deal solely with the idea of worker safety and have representatives of labor, workers involved, frontline workers involved as well,” said State Sen. Minority Leader Tim Lanane.

In a statement – Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray – a republican – pointed to the governor’s specific guidance saying, “In the event guidance is not followed, IOSHA has been investigating and will continue to investigate any violation.”

In response to the workplace concerns highlighted in this press conference, the governor’s Press Secretary, Rachel Hoffmeyer sent the following statement, “The Governor is focused on keeping Hoosiers safe. That’s why the Back on Track Indiana plan rolls this out in stages with the option of being able to adjust the plan and restrictions as we go. It’s also why the state coordinated with industry experts as the plan was created. The Governor encourages employers to put in place precautions to keep employees safe. Industry guidelines are posted on BackOnTrack.IN.gov.”

RACHEL HOFFMEYER, PRESS SECRETARY FOR INDIANA GOV. ERIC HOLCOMB

“Our state must guarantee that those who can work can do so without putting themselves or their families at risk of catching this virus,” said Sen. Niezgodski.

Workers would also like the state to provide guidance on whether companies should release COVID-19 data.

Employee law attorney Stephanie Hahn said just because an employer discloses how many people have a disease does not cause them to violate HIPAA. She says the company would have to give out an identifying characteristic.

“We’re just asking how many people in the plant, number-wise, like they did at Tyson, they put out a number how many people were infected by the virus. That’s all we are asking,” said John Suher, President of UAW Local 9 for Honeywell International.

Our Twitter poll showed most people think companies should be releasing this information to staff.

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