Trump’s OSHA Slashes Many Worker Safety Rulemaking Plans

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By Stephen Lee and Marissa Horn

The Trump administration has slashed several worker safety rulemakings, following through on the president’s vows to reduce regulations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration now is abandoning efforts to regulate worker exposure to combustible dust (RIN: 1218-AC41), construction noise (RIN: 1218-AD06), and vehicles backing up in factories and construction sites (RIN: 1218-AC51), as well another that would update the way the agency adopts permissible exposure limits for chemicals (RIN: 1218-AD01).

The spring regulatory agenda, released July 20, cites “resource constraints and other priorities” for those abandoned rulemakings, and offers no new rulemakings on workplace protections. A spokeswoman for OSHA said it isn’t the agency’s policy to comment on the regulatory agenda.

Business interests were quick to applaud the document.

“This suggests that the agency is taking a responsible approach to regulating and trying to focus on those areas where there is the most need, and to do so in a way that respects the various interests at stake,” Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg BNA.

Milling, one of the industries most affected by the combustible dust rule, has long stood against what the industry called an overburdening regulation. Christopher Clark, vice president of the North American Millers’ Association, said the group supports the Trump administration’s latest push to deregulate.

Still Alive: Rules With Industry Buy-In

Other OSHA rulemakings, including those governing emergency response and preparedness (RIN: 1218-AC91) and infectious diseases in health care (RIN: 1218-AC46), as well as a rule that would make a series of fixes to the existing cranes and derricks in construction rule (RIN: 1218-AC81), have been moved to the “long-term actions” list, signaling that the Trump administration has no intention to move them forward.

The infectious diseases standard being pushed to the back burner puts both health care workers and the public at risk, Bonnie Castillo, health and safety director for National Nurses United, told Bloomberg BNA.

“If we actually roll back or back burner this rule, that ensures facilities have adequate supplies, equipment and trained staff, we are at risk during outbreaks,” Castillo said. “These kinds of diseases are not going to respect politics or boundaries.”

Castillo said the union will continue to lobby and work at local, state and federal levels on the issue.

Of the regulatory efforts that OSHA said it will continue to work on, some have industry buy-in. For example, the agency’s communications tower safety rulemaking (RIN: 1218-AC90) has the broad support of industry and is listed in the Trump agenda as being in the pre-rule stage. OSHA said it wants to complete its small-business review of the rule by August.

Similarly, a rulemaking to update and modernize OSHA’s powered industrial trucks rule (RIN: 1218-AC99) has the support of the Industrial Truck Association. OSHA said it wants to issue a request for information on the rule by December.

Abandonment of Worker Protections?

Freedman also said the agenda contained no surprises, given President Donald Trump’s constant rhetoric on the campaign trail about cutting regulations.

“This was part of the campaign rhetoric,” Freedman said. “Regulations are a big target, rightly or wrongly, and OSHA is certainly seen as one of the key agencies with respect to employers and the regulations that they must follow. So they were always going to come under a lot of attention in that conversation.”

Peg Seminario, safety and health director at the AFL-CIO, agreed with that diagnosis.

“There’s no surprises here,” Seminario told Bloomberg BNA. “They are implementing what they said they would do, which is to move aggressively on deregulation. So for anybody who thought that President Trump didn’t mean what he said, this is one area where he is fully keeping his campaign promises.”

But Seminario also excoriated the agenda as what she called the administration’s failure to stand up for working people.

“What you see is, basically, that the Trump administration is abandoning protecting workers from health and safety hazards,” she said. “They’re turning their backs on the future.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bna.com; Marissa Horn in Washington at mhorn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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