- The Trump administration, according to NBC News, has been slow to fill open safety inspector positions at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), leaving the agency potentially short-staffed and U.S. workplaces with less oversight.
- Between the president's inauguration last January and Oct. 2, 40 inspectors of a staff of 1,000 retired, but they were not replaced. OSHA officials told NBC that since the beginning of October, the agency has hired new inspectors and is also recruiting for more than 24 additional inspector positions. But officials did not detail exactly how many individuals have been or would be hired.
- The White House's desire to reduce federal bureaucracy is thought to be behind OSHA's hiring lag, and many other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are also having to make do with fewer employees. However, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), OSHA inspections increased through September 2017 by a few hundred in comparison with 2016.
President Trump campaigned in part on regulatory reform and a promise to root out waste in the federal government. A few days after he took office, he instituted a federal hiring freeze, which gave rise to concerns that the DOL would not be able to adequately investigate wage and other violations, although that order was lifted not even three months later in April.
In addition, soon after the inauguration, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a memorandum to federal agency heads directing them to send no new regulations for publication by the Office of the Federal Register, withdraw those that had been recently submitted, and push back the effective date of those that had already been published.
The president also ordered last year that certain infrastructure projects be fast-tracked past what the White House considers cumbersome and time-consuming environmental and permitting processes.
But how much of a manpower reduction can the already-stretched OSHA inspection and enforcement staff take? In December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 2016 saw a 7% overall increase in fatal workplace accidents from 2016, with construction recording a 6% increase. Almost 64% of accidental construction workplace deaths were caused by what OSHA has dubbed the Fatal Four – falls, struck-by incidents, electrocution and caught-in/between accidents – and the agency relies on its enforcement staff to crack down on employers who do not institute the proper safeguards and penalize them accordingly.