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REPORT: V.I. Workers Risk ‘Injury Or Even Death’ Because Local Labor Department Has Failed To Complete Health and Safety Inspections

OSHA inspector at a job site

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Virgin Islands Department of Occupational Health and Safety (VIDOSH) failed to issue citations in a “timely manner” and “the majority of case files are closed incorrectly,” according to a damning report by the U.S. Department of Labor obtained by the Virgin Islands Free Press.

The 32-page report indicates that VIDOSH conducted 99 inspections in fiscal year 2015, but fully 75 percent of them were never closed. While the cases are ongoing or “open,” the contents of the findings are sealed and unavailable for public scrutiny.

“One of the most serious issues yet to be addressed by VIDOSH is its number of cases with open abatement (no goals have been accomplished to date) which put VI state and local government workers at risk of injury or even death,” the report states. “Despite clear guidance, assistance, and direction from the Region, VIDOSH continues to not utilize strategies such as conducting follow-up inspections and issuing “failure-to-abate” (FTA) citations; nor have they implemented any provision of 29 CR 1903 to ensure the abatement of cited hazards. VIDOSH is accepting as final abatement statements from employers that “training will be scheduled” or “a draft program is being reviewed.” This is not acceptable and continues to put VI state and local government workers’ health and safety in danger.”

The federal government said that the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) which administers VIDOSH has had 13 years to bring the local occupational health and safety department into compliance with established OSHA standards — but still has failed to do so despite clear correction instructions from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“VIDOSH continues to not issue citations in a timely manner and the majority of case files are closed incorrectly,” the report states. “Of the 99 inspections conducted during FY 2015, only 25 cases (25%) were closed and available for OSHA to review for this evaluation. In addition, VIDOSH fails to respond in a timely manner with their intent to adopt Federal Program Changes (FPCs) or federal standards. VIDOSH responded late in 12 of the 15 (80%) FPCs issued and to all (100%) of the federal standards issued during FY 2015. VIDOSH had three years to complete the developmental steps that were established in the July 23, 2003 Federal Register; however, after 13 years they have failed to accomplish this.”

Labor Commission Catherine Hendry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

To read the complete report, please click on the link below:

https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/efame/2015/vi_report.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=17922&p_text_version=FALSE

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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