Over the course of the last three months, the total number of workplace safety inspectors with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has declined sharply. According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, OSHA has lost over 40 inspectors due to normal attrition in the last few months. However, the federal government has not moved to fill any of these vacancies since October 2, 2017. This decline has accounted for a 4 percent drop in the total number of OSHA inspectors.

OSHA inspectors are tasked with the enforcement of federal safety requirements in the workplace. They review employers for possible safety hazards, investigate worker complaints and reported violations and record any violations they uncover. These violations can lead to hefty fines levied against an employer.

Despite the shrinking workforce, OSHA is insistent that they are fully staffed and vigorous in their duties. In fact, according to the Department of Labor, there has been a small increase in the number of OSHA inspections in 2017 compared to the previous year. This marks the first time in five years that the Department of Labor has recorded an increase in the number of investigations. Critics, however, warn that OSHA will be unable to fulfill its mandate if it remains understaffed, especially in rural areas.

Some experts fear that a shrunken roster of OSHA inspectors could lead to additional workplace injuries. Recovering from a work-related injury can be complicated due to the workers’ compensation claims process. An injured worker may be entitled to a claim for his or her injury, including medical costs, lost wages and even pain and suffering. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help someone navigate that process, prepare a claim with his or her employer’s insurance carrier or draft and file a lawsuit against his or her employer to recover damages from the work-related injury.