Trump’s OSHA Has Stopped Telling the Public About Corporate Safety Violations
Trump has both muzzled and tied the hands of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in his service of big business at the expense of worker safety.
Since Trump took office, the agency has all but stopped issuing news releases disclosing the safety violations of companies. The agency continues to police companies with safety compliance violations, but the fines are mostly chump change. The most effective tool under previous presidents for keeping workers safe and companies compliant was OSHA’s public shaming of negligent companies through public announcements.
Jordan Barab, a deputy assistant secretary in the Obama administration, inflicted the pain of the pen on negligent companies until Trump’s inauguration. He’s still publicizing the penalties against companies for unsafe working conditions as a private citizen with his blog, Confined Space.
There’s more bad news for workers. Trump and Congress repealed the Volks Rule. What that means for the industry is that though companies are still required to keep accurate records of workplace accidents resulting in injuries and illnesses for up to five years, OSHA’s lost the power to enforce any violations older than six months from the time a citation is issued.
And that’s where it gets complicated. If a citation is issued four months after an inspection, which is not uncommon, according to Barab, OSHA would only be able to go back two months. And if it took six months to issue a citation, OSHA would not be able to cite any recordkeeping violations at all.
“Altogether, this means no big recordkeeping cases—cases which, in the past, have resulted in major citations and significant industry changes,” Barab told DCReport. “And in fact, since the 2012 Volks decision, OSHA recordkeeping citations have dropped 75%.”
Adding insult to literal injury, the states that overwhelmingly went to Trump in the election have the highest workplace injuries and fatalities. North Dakota and Wyoming lead the pack, with 12.5 and 12 deaths per 100,000 workers respectively, according to FairWarning.org in a report on a grim pattern of workers voting against their own safety on the job. The North Dakota and Wyoming death rates are more than four times the fatality rate for most states that voted for Hillary Clinton.
Professor Thomas A. Kochan, co-director of the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told FairWarning, “Workers and citizens in states in which a majority voted for Trump have much to lose if the Trump Administration weakens enforcement or reduces support for health, safety and employment standards.”