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National Public Radio reports that Congress is moving to nullify a Labor Department rule that requires employers to keep careful records of worker injuries and illnesses for five years. If the new legislation goes into effect, the Department will have only six months to check companies’ logs and issue a fine if they are inaccurate or incomplete.
- Congress May Undo Rule That Pushes Firms To Keep Good Safety Records, by Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR All Things Considered (March 20, 2017).
The NPR story quotes David Michaels, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), saying that there are currently not enough safety inspectors to catch problems that fast and that “some worry that accurate record keeping on injuries will effectively become voluntary.”
In addition to the reported legislation, OSHA rule-enforcement could become even harder if its budget is reduced. The "Budget Blueprint" released last week by the Trump Administration proposes a 20.7% cut to the Department of Labor.
The NPR story notes that:
Two former commissioners of the Bureau of Labor Statistics — one appointed by President George W. Bush and one appointed by President Barack Obama — have written lawmakers to warn that national data on workplace injuries would become less reliable.
The New York Times reports that the Department of Labor has not publicized a single worker safety corporate fine since the inauguration of the President.
- Worker Safety Rules Are Among Those Under Fire in Trump Era, by Barry Meier And Danielle Ivory, New York Times (March 13, 2017).
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.
During the Obama administration, the announcements of fines were used as a major tool for workplace safety enforcement, "essentially publicly shaming companies" that violated worker safety rules. It issued an average of about 460 news releases annually about fines and other enforcement actions.
The Times quotes a spokeswoman for the Labor Department as declining to comment when asked why OSHA had not issued any such releases, but saying that the agency’s enforcement efforts were unchanged.
A google search for site:osha.gov “Citation and Notification of Penalty ” 2017 discovered only one citation issued after Jan 20, 2017.
The DOL page for News Releases for OSHA shows that the last press release for a fine or penalty was on jan 17 and that page bears a banner that says "Please note: As of January 20, 2017, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies."
Four new press releases are listed on that page. One urges workers to "safeguard themselves," two announce partnerships to enhance workplace safety, and one announces a proposed delay in the effective date of a rule designed to protect workers from lung cancer.