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Report: OSHA Down 40 Inspectors

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Since President Donald J. Trump took office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reportedly lost 40 inspectors, which accounts for 4 percent of the agency’s inspection force. Even though there has been some indication that new inspectors are being hired, what remains is the Trump administration’s goal to slow the growth of federal bureaucracy.

OSHA’s federal inspection force fell below 1,000 members in October, reported NBC News.

Inspector Loss

Despite the reduction, Labor Department spokesman Eric Holland specified that the agency had hired several inspectors, and was in the process of recruiting two dozen more. The department declined to provide specifics, however.

Former OSHA officials have expressed concern as to what this kind of loss means for the average American person; OSHA has a limited window in which to issue citations, and that timeframe has further been reduced by those in office.

Ed Brown, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Since President Donald J. Trump took office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reportedly lost 40 inspectors, which accounts for 4 percent of the agency’s inspection force. Even though there has been some indication that new inspectors are being hired, what remains is the Trump administration’s goal to slow the growth of federal bureaucracy.

More than this, however, a reduction in staff means increased difficulty for the agency to do its job. With fewer inspectors, there’s greater pressure to quickly reach a settlement, and that often means reduced fines, noted David Michaels, who headed OSHA under the Obama administration.

"The lack of new inspectors makes OSHA invisible. If employers don’t think OSHA will come, workers are much more likely to be hurt,” he added.

Even though the federal hiring freeze was lifted in April, any moves to replace the 40 inspectors have been slow.

Law Enforcement

With the first increase in the number of inspections in five years—conducted from Oct. 2016 to Sept. 2017—there is still concern over the state of small, regional OSHA offices. The southeast region lost 10 inspectors in the first eight months of the Trump administration.

According to NBC, Mississippi, a state with one of the highest worker fatality and injury rates in the country, has experienced a 26 percent reduction in inspections, between when President Trump took office and Sept. 2017.

Debbie Berkowitz, who served as an official under Obama-era OSHA, noted that the drop-off in enforcement was due to staffing shortages.

On the other hand, despite the loss of eight inspectors and two inspector supervisors, Wisconsin and Ohio saw an increase in the number of inspections.

The Department of Labor has indicated that hurricanes, not staffing shortages, were responsible for Mississippi's decline. According to NBC, there was already a decline in inspections before the stormy season.

Funding Hires

Budget uncertainty also impacted the Labor Department’s ability to hire inspectors despite the lift of the hiring freeze in April. As of August, the budget became more assured, enabling the Department to take steps to bring new inspectors on board.

"Even after OSHA hires someone, they can't just send them out to do an inspection by themselves," said John Barab, who also served under Obama-era OSHA. "This will have an impact for years." 

OSHA is also not the only agency to experience a hiring lag. Other organizations, like the Environmental Protection Agency, are having to make do with fewer staff. 

   

Tagged categories: Government; Health and safety; OSHA; Regulations

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