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Workplace safety inspections increasing with state, federal partnership

By Pamela Young
Published On: Sep 13 2013 04:08:42 PM HST
Updated On: Sep 13 2013 07:55:21 PM HST

The state's regulatory force to ensure workplace safety and health is fully staffed and ready to meet any challenges of an improving economy, says HIOSH, a partnership of state and federal inspectors and consultants.

HONOLULU -

The state's regulatory force to ensure workplace safety and health is fully staffed and ready to meet any challenges of an improving economy.

That's according to the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH), a partnership of state and federal inspectors and consultants.

With hundreds of  sites being developed, dozens of high rises on the books and thousands more workers at every location, the potential for danger is building.

Governor Abercrombie says the state is ready.

"We will match anything we do by the way of increasing the number of people working with the requisite OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspections and citations," Gov. Abercrombie said at a press conference Friday.

A partnership between the state's Department of Labor & Industrial Relations and OHSA has resulted in an increase in inspections.

Three years ago the less than 300 inspections were conducted annually. Today over 500 are conducted.

OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Dorothy Dougherty lauded the state's high national ranking in serious and compliance violations. The toughest challenge, though, is yet to come.

With the expected boost in construction and manufacturing, HIOSH is developing a detailed inspection strategy for all new construction. That includes the state's biggest public works project, rail transit.

"Rail is going to be a huge project and, given the nature of the construction work, we are concerned," said Dwight Takamine, Director of DLIR.

The project will be doubled teamed by HIOSH, the state-federal partnership, and a consulting team hired by HART to look into the technically complex safety issues of a project of this size.

"We assume they have the technical expertise to go in and do what they need to do for safety," said Diantha Goo, HIOSH Director.

This, in addition to yearly inspections by HIOSH.

Currently the state has  22 inspectors, the minimum required by federal law.

Next legislative session, the agency will be asking lawmakers to boost their staff and resources to accommodate the demands of a growing economy.

"So often the only news that gets out is bad news," said Gov. Abercrombie. "What they're saying is this is good news, taking place at a time of recovery."

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