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Oct. 22, 2018 by Katie Tracy

OSHA's Fall Regulatory Agenda: Worker Protections Not a Priority

The Trump administration has few plans to protect workers from emerging workplace health and safety hazards, according to the regulatory agenda released by the White House on October 16. This is nothing new for this administration, which has consistently neglected to take up worker protections, instead focusing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) resources on delaying and rolling back existing safeguards

Among the rules in OSHA's crosshairs, the agency plans to revoke a requirement for employers with 250 or more employees to electronically submit detailed logs of injuries and illnesses that occur at their establishments. The electronic reporting requirement for large firms is one piece of a 2016 rule finalized just before President Obama's term ended. The 2016 rule only sought to require establishments to submit injury and illness records that employers are already required to keep on site. But Trump's OSHA is basing its rollback on a bogus claim about employee privacy that, as we've explained in a prior post and in comments on the final rule, is completely unfounded. 

OSHA's fall agenda shows it will move ahead with plans to revoke ancillary requirements for the construction and maritime industries from the agency's standard designed to limit worker …

Sept. 25, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The day is intended to share information about mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that forms on the linings of vital organs, typically the lungs, following asbestos exposure. While the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with the illness is grim, preventing it is very much possible. 

Scientific studies of asbestos conclude there is no safe level of exposure. Accordingly, the clear solution to preventing mesothelioma is to ensure people are never exposed to asbestos in any amount. Safer alternatives to asbestos exist, so banning it is not beyond reach. Despite this, the U.S. is not among roughly 50 nations that have done so. Although asbestos is no longer manufactured in the United States, it persists in previously installed insulation and is still being imported every year. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 100 percent of the asbestos imported into …

Aug. 14, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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The Trump administration has aggressively sought to undermine public safeguards since taking office, all under the guise of making America great (again?). Nowhere has this been more evident than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where Trump appointees have sought to attack most every standard adopted during the Obama era, as well as long-standing analytical procedures (see here and here) designed to ensure any new standards are evidence-based and scientifically sound. These attacks do not stop at EPA, however. Trump has also undermined worker protections at every turn. 

At the end of July, Trump's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed to roll back an Obama-era rule finalized in May 2016 to improve tracking of worker injuries and illnesses by requiring employers to electronically submit certain records to the agency. The final rule did not ask employers to document additional information than is already required under existing recordkeeping …

June 12, 2018 by Rena Steinzor
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This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun.

On June 5, a 19-year-old construction worker named Kyle Hancock was smothered to death when a deep trench where he was working collapsed. R.F. Warder Inc., the construction company that hired Hancock to help fix a leaking sewage pipe, and the bosses it employed are responsible for his death, plain and simple. Their failure to shore the trench to prevent a collapse was grossly negligent, readily foreseeable, eminently preventable and, therefore, criminal.

The scene of the incident was gruesome. To recover Hancock's body, emergency responders from the Baltimore Fire Department first shored the trench to protect themselves and then worked painstakingly until 1:30 a.m., digging with hand shovels 20 feet down. Before they began the rescue effort, they had to order two other workers out of the hole. We can assume from this fact that Hancock …

May 14, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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The White House released its Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions on May 9 with little fanfare. A close examination of the agenda for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows that protecting worker health and safety is anything but a priority for the Trump administration. Rather, the agency will continue to focus on weakening worker protections.

OSHA's spring agenda lists 20 planned activities – 15 carryovers from the fall agenda, four agenda items moved from the agency's list of long-term actions to now in play, and one new activity.

The 15 carryover items include 14 announcements of delays, ranging from one to seven months. For example, one carryover on the agenda is the agency's plan to weaken the 2017 beryllium standard by easing safety requirements on the construction and maritime industries. The standard protects workers from chronic disease and lung cancer, but the …

May 1, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) proposed a rule on Feb. 1 to alter inspection procedures for hog slaughter plants by revoking the existing cap on maximum line speeds and transferring key inspection tasks from USDA inspectors to private plant workers. These changes to current practices raise numerous concerns for worker health and safety, all of which the agency fails to address in the proposal. 

Because of these concerns, Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars Martha McCluskey, Tom McGarity, Sid Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, and I sent comments to the agency on April 30, urging it to go back to the drawing board and account for the considerable worker health and safety risks its proposal creates before moving forward.  

Meatpacking workers endure some of the most dangerous working conditions in the nation. Workers are exposed to cold, wet, noisy, and …

April 25, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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On Saturday, April 28, CPR will observe Workers' Memorial Day by remembering fallen workers whose lives were taken from this world too soon and by renewing our pledge to fight for all working people. 

Every day in this country, 14 workers leave for work, never to return home. One worker is killed on the job every two hours in the United States. In 2016, 5,190 workers died earning a living, the highest number on record in eight years. That doesn't account for the hundreds of lives lost daily to occupational diseases from exposures to toxic chemicals and substances. Nor does it include the thousands of hard-working Americans who incur severe injuries or contract illnesses on the job each day. 

When I think about what each of these workers and their families endure, I struggle to see why politics so often stands in the way of obvious …

March 26, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Maryland's Occupational Safety and Health division (MOSH) is struggling to carry out its mission of ensuring the health and safety of Maryland workers, according to CPR's analysis of a mandatory performance report the agency provided to the state legislature late last year.

The Maryland legislature mandated the report as a condition of releasing $250,000 of MOSH's FY 2018 funds. Our review of the report and other agency materials leads us to conclude that the agency's limited budget is a key culprit in its shortcomings in recent years. Namely, MOSH is struggling with significant turnover among health and safety inspectors, and this management challenge is compounded by resource shortfalls. Without enough inspectors, MOSH is failing to meet its inspection targets, leaving too many employers to police themselves and putting workers at risk. MOSH is also declining to update its regulatory standards on a …

March 14, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Workers have the right to speak up about health and safety hazards they encounter on the job. And they should be able to feel comfortable coming forward with their concerns without having to worry that they will be fired, demoted, or in some other way retaliated against for doing so. That is exactly what the drafters of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) had in mind when they included a provision in the 1970 law prohibiting employers from retaliating against workers who report concerns to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or to its state counterparts (in states that choose to operate their own OSH programs with approval from federal OSHA). 

Unfortunately, in the more than 47 years since the law's enactment, the anti-retaliation provisions have proven ineffective. Despite legislation introduced in Congress to update the law, no bill has ever gained enough …

Feb. 5, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Today, six CPR Member Scholars and staff members sent a letter to the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, calling on the agency to withdraw its proposal to repeal an Obama-era rule aimed at preventing employers from taking workers' hard-earned tips. Last week, Bloomberg Law uncovered a deliberate effort by the DOL to conceal an analysis showing that the proposal would allow business owners and managers to steal and misappropriate billions of dollars – that's "billions" with a "b" – of tips from workers. This theft would be especially devastating for the thousands of restaurant workers and bartenders whose tips represent the vast majority of their take-home pay. 

According to the Bloomberg Law article, DOL leadership balked at the original cost-benefit analysis that career staff had produced because it showed precisely what worker advocates claimed it would: This attack against a sensible safeguard could result …

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