Former OSHA official publishes safety citations amid agency's halt on press releases
- A former Occupational Safety and Health Administration official has responded to the Trump administration's decision not to issue "shaming" press releases about major fines and safety violations by publishing the information on his own blog, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
- Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary at OSHA under President Barack Obama, said the strong, descriptive press releases helped drive home the importance of workplace safety to companies that were out of reach of a relatively small inspection staff, giving the agency much-needed leverage.
- So far, Barab has posted citation and fine information from January 18 to February 14 of this year, with several construction companies featured on the list.
The last enforcement-related press release was issued by OSHA two days before President Donald Trump's inauguration. Since that time, the agency has instead only announced news about OSHA-sponsored compliance plans, including "Safe and Sound," which encourages companies to review their safety programs and determine how they can improve on them.
This new direction for OSHA fits with Trump's business-friendly viewpoint and vow to cut back on regulations. Since he has taken office, Trump and his administration have begun chipping away at regulations considered too burdensome for small business, such as the Labor Department's "blacklisting rule," which was repealed this week. That regulation would have required most contractors to report their history of DOL violations as a condition of bidding on federal contracts.
The administration has also presided over the revocation of the Volks rule, which significantly expanded the time the agency had to cite companies for recordkeeping violations. The next target for Trump staff could be the contentious silica rule, which went into effect last summer. Many industry organizations and trade associations argue that compliance with the rule, which reduces permitted exposure to silica dust, would be too expensive and exceeded current technological capabilities.
Edwin G. Foulke Jr., former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA under President George W. Bush, told Construction Dive earlier this month that the agency's press releases were "not an effective safety tool." He said the agency's goal of protecting individuals through a safer workplace is an important one but that it should also seek a balanced approach to that objective by helping employers comply with regulations instead.
However, Ashley Kaplan, senior employment law attorney for ComplyRight, told Construction Dive, "Deregulation does not necessarily mean compliance is simplified," as reduced federal regulations can lead to heightened potential for small businesses to violate labor laws when the guidelines aren't clear.
- The Center for Investigative Reporting Trump’s OSHA won’t name and shame businesses. So a dissident steps in
- Confined Space OSHA Enforcement Cases: They Won’t Tell You; We will
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