The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has shrunk significantly under the Trump Administration, escalating concerns that the agency is effectively being rendered ineffective and that U.S. workers face an increasing risk of injury and death on the job.
Since Trump took office, OSHA lost 40 inspectors through attrition and its total inspector force – the ground troops responsible for ensuring employers are taking the proper precautions to keep workers safe – fell below 1,000.
According to NBC News, “OSHA’s reduced staff reflects Trump’s broader effort to slow the growth of the [government] and is a part of the mass departure of civil servants across the government, from the Internal Revenue Service to the Environmental Protection Agency.”
OSHA inspectors investigate workplaces and flag safety and health hazards, respond to worker complaints, and issue citations for violations that can lead to financial penalties and other actions, such as increased oversight. OSHA inspectors are also charged with enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations across numerous industries, including securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.
Even before staff reductions and budget cuts, OSHA has worked with extremely limited resources. In Mississippi, the most dangerous state for workers, there were just 11 OSHA inspectors to inspect all employers and workplaces in the state in 2016. At that rate, it would take those inspectors 130 years to inspect each workplace in Mississippi just once.
“Though the president has repeatedly stressed the need to shrink the federal workforce, OSHA has acknowledged in recent months that it needs more manpower to do the job,” NBC news reported.
But contrary to what OSHA, which does the actual work of regulating U.S. workplaces, says, Rachel Greszler, a fellow at the conservative thinktank Heritage Foundation, told NBC News that Trump’s administration is doing a commendable job of reducing “redundancy, waste and inefficiency” across the federal workforce while remaining adequately staffed.
“This won’t mean slashing jobs immediately, but it will mean transitioning — through retirements, attrition and reassigning current employees — to a smaller federal workforce,” she said.
Indeed, OSHA’s shrinking staff has made it even harder for OSHA to do its job properly, Dr. David Michaels, former head of OSHA told NBC News.
“The lack of new inspectors makes OSHA invisible. If employers don’t think OSHA will come, workers are much more likely to be hurt.”