Employees urge state to address safety-inspector retention crisis

DOSH-rally-16Jul28OLYMPIA (July 28, 2016) — Washington state employees who make sure workers are safe on the job and their community supporters rallied this morning for more competitive wages. Employees from the Department of Labor and Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) want the state’s help retaining more of its workers. The rally took place ahead of a bargaining session also scheduled for today.

Dan Skinner, who works with DOSH, says Washington businesses and workers are concerned about the number of safety inspectors leaving state work.

“We really are in a crisis here as it relates to the safety of workers in the state of Washington, and that crisis is being generated from the lack of competitive wages,” he said.

Skinner says other West Coast states, Oregon and California, pay their state inspectors far more. DOSH workers and their union, the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28, submitted a request asking lawmakers to address recruitment and retention issues in this year’s supplemental budget, but no provisions were included.

According to the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), it costs more than $200,000 to train new safety workers over a two-year span. But the agency also reports that since 2008, nearly a third of safety and health professionals has left L&I after two years.

Skinner is concerned that once these workers get their training from the state, the private sector scoops them up and pays them more.

“When you’re spending over $100,000 a year to train one employee, and you’re losing them after a couple of years, and you’re training two classes of 20 people, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “We basically have become private industry’s training program for safety and health.”

State employees across every sector are concerned about workers leaving for jobs elsewhere. Around 600 state employees leave state service each month, according to the Office of Financial Management.

For more information, visit the WFSE website.

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