Donald Trump’s rollbacks of worker protections could cost lives. Kathleen Rest, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and former acting director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and David Michaels, a public health professor and former assistant secretary of labor, leave no room for doubt on that front. People die from workplace injuries and work-related diseases every day:
People like 25-year-old Donovan Weber who suffocated in a trench collapse in Minnesota. Or Michael McCort, Christopher Irvin, Antonio Navarrete and Frank Lee Jones who were killed at a power plant in Florida when molten slag reaching 1,000 degrees poured down on them as they tried to unplug a tank. Or Wanda Holbrook, whose head was crushed by a malfunctioning robot as she adjusted machinery in Michigan.
Each day in the United States, 13 people are killed as a direct result of hazardous working conditions. And, more than 10 times that number die of work-related diseases that are less sudden but no less devastating.
And Trump’s policies are going to make that worse:
Since January, we’ve seen delays and rollbacks in workplace protections. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed weakening protections for workers exposed to cancer-causing beryllium and delayed enforcement of its silica rule, increasing the likely incidence of lung disease. It has delayed the electronic submission of injury and illness data and stopped releasing public information about enforcement actions, inhibiting public and researchers’ access to data that can inform prevention.
And Congress has permanently terminated OSHA’s ability to fine employers with a long-standing pattern of injury and illness record-keeping violations, a previously important signal to others in the industry.
Equally worrisome are proposed budget cuts for research, education and training designed to improve the health and safety of our nation’s workplaces — research that enhances knowledge on existing and future hazards; that underpins government policies and workplace practices; and that spurs innovations in workplace safety.
But Trump claims those rollbacks are going to be good for corporate profits, and that’s what he cares about. Certainly not workers’ lives.
This blog was originally published at Daily Kos Labor on August 15, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.