According to the AFL-CIO, Trump’s is obliterating worker safety regulations, resulting in an increasing number of worker deaths and injuries, especially in dangerous occupations such as construction. Construction accidents which maim and kill workers increase and protections for their health and safety are abolished. Due to these changes construction worker safety is at a 21st Century low, with accidents on the rise. Here are some examples of changes in laws and regulations:
- Repealed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring employers to keep accurate injury records (PL-115-21). Clearly, maintaining records of injuries is important so that employers that have more injuries can be investigated as to their safety practices, fined and forced to maintain safer practices. Although this adds some small cost to their operations, it is not so much to ask to protect workers. Mostly it helps employers who cut corners on worker safety as it makes it much more difficult to find them.
- Repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule to make sure federal contractors follow safety and labor laws (PL-115-11). Safety laws are only as good as enforcement.
- Withdrew an OSHA policy allowing workers to designate walkaround representatives to participate in OSHA inspections in nonunion workplaces. Trump’s war on unions has decreased the amount of oversight and training that Unions provide to their members, and this change in policy further undermines attempts to police safety standards at non-union work sites.
It is not surprising that due to these and other changes in the law, the incidence of fatalities from construction accidents is increasing steadily. According to OSHA, in 2016 there has been a 7 percent increase in construction worker deaths since 2016. Clearly, when protections for worker safety are rolled back, worker’s lives are in danger. Construction worker safety protocols have involved in modern times, and it sad to see the increase in serious injuries that is a result of current rollbacks.
Since 2017, the number of OSHA inspectors has fallen from 814 to 764 and has the number of enforcement units in the field. This is combined with rollbacks at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which limits workers’ exposure to radiation and chemicals, causing increased incidences of black lung, asbestosis, and silicosis. Construction worker safety is multi-faceted, including the provision of appropriate safety gear, training and the time-frame allowed for construction.
The Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, which has been studying work site traffic plans and technology, and has made recommendations including workers wearing beepers that can alert when a vehicle is approaching, has been sidelined. The Trump Administration has disbanded the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health that worked with unions to develop new safety plans. These bipartisan committees were not intended to be political, but to work in the public interest to protect workers.
As attorneys, we can help fight for worker safety by holding the employer’s responsibility for their negligence that harms workers. When a worker is injured or killed, a lawsuit is a powerful deterrent for cutting corners on safety. At Wittenstein & Wittenstein we’ve been helping injured workers for generations. If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, we will tirelessly investigate the incident and hold the responsible parties accountable.