INDIANAPOLIS — A state lawmaker is calling on Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to reform the state’s safety agency after a federal investigation found wrongdoing.
In 2017, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration dropped fines for Amazon after a worker died on the job.
Federal OSHA claims this state agency acted inappropriately.
“The very reason why we have IOSHA is to protect workers,” said Democratic State Rep. Lisa Beck of Crown Point.
She said she believes IOSHA failed to do that in the case of a worker who died on the job at Amazon’s Plainfield facility in 2017.
“I think the most startling or egregious act by Indiana’s OSHA was that they coached the employer,” explained Beck.
In a document provided to our partners at the Indianapolis Star, Federal OSHA revealed its opinion on the case.
“State officials engaged in unprompted, unnecessary and premature discussions with amazon on information that will excuse the employer from a citation that has otherwise been documented.” said the article. It went on to say, “IOSHA dismissed four safety violations and fines without receiving evidence a job hazard did not exist.”
Rep. Beck fears the only punishment IOSHA will get from this federal opinion is more training.
“It seems like we need to do more than just training because I have a hard time believing that somebody that was willing to coach an employer on how to get out of fines on fatalities, I’m sure that they did not follow their own guidelines,” said Beck.
Beck suggests implementing an impartial and independent oversight panel made up of stakeholders in the field. The existing Board of Safety Review is appointed by the current governor’s administration, and federal OSHA doesn’t audit IOSHA annually.
“They audit them every other year,” said Beck. “Maybe what this is telling us is that’s not enough. We need some other oversight to Indiana OSHA.”
Reporter Kayla Sullivan asked Governor Holcomb his thoughts on reforming the agency.
“IOSHA, the Department of Labor is conducting business as they should, and they will continue to investigate any claim or accusation that comes their way,” said Holcomb. “I have full faith in their duty and their job that they are doing.”
IOSHA didn’t want to comment further. Spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said, “Any response regarding federal OSHA’s opinion on the matter in question will be provided via federal osha’s proper channels and processes.”
Beck doesn’t think action on this should wait.
“Something more serious needs to be done here,” said Beck.
The state has 30 days from the time it received the opinion to respond.