Donald Trump’s Labor Department is sending employers a message that it’s open season on worker safety—by cutting off public messages about enforcement of worker safety rules. What Fair Warning noticed 10 days ago is still going on today:
In a sharp break with the past, the department has stopped publicizing fines against companies. As of Monday, seven weeks after the inauguration of President Trump, the department had yet to post a single news release about an enforcement fine. […]
“The reason you do news releases is to influence other employers” to clean up their acts, said David Michaels, who was an administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency within the Labor Department that oversees workplace safety, during much of the Obama administration.
If there aren’t news releases, people are much less likely to hear which local companies are endangering their workers, which means that much less pressure on the companies to keep workers safe. That’s not the only red flag about the direction Trump and his people will take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
Industry groups are pushing back against an Obama-era regulation meant to exert pressure on companies to better comply with record-keeping rules. A provision of that rule, which was supposed to take effect last month, would require companies to electronically submit accident data to OSHA so the agency could post the information on a public website. As recently as early January, OSHA said on its website that it expected the site to be live in February.
But in recent weeks, the agency changed the wording so that it now states, “OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions at this time.”
“That was not an accident,” said Mr. Conn, the lawyer. “That was a big signal to employers that even if they report the data, it will not be published online.”
Republicans are also rolling back increased workplace safety fines; delaying a new rule limiting exposure to beryllium, which can cause a chronic lung disease; and in other ways weakening OSHA’s enforcement powers. But hey, the public is less likely to know about the deaths that result, so politicians are less likely to get pressure from people who care about dead workers, while industry lobby groups will stay just as active pushing for less and less enforcement. So Republicans have got it all worked out.
This article originally appeared at DailyKOS.com on March 14, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.