Trump’s Team Still Facing Worker Safety Puzzle: Our Look at 2018

By Stephen Lee

Nearly one year in and the Trump administration is still trying to figure out how to handle worker safety policy.

It’s a bit of an awkward fit for this White House. On one hand, President Donald Trump is committed to slashing government regulations as a way of boosting company profits, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is always a plump target for the business class.

On the other hand, Trump rode to victory in 2016 on the strength of working-class voters—the very people who stand to benefit most from robust worker safety policies. A sharp spike in the death rate, or even the perception that the White House cares more about corporate bottom lines than workers’ lives and limbs, could alienate that bloc.

With so little room to maneuver, it’s no wonder the administration spent its first year pretty much steering clear of worker safety altogether. And there’s every reason to believe that the pattern will repeat for the rest of Trump’s term in office.

But that’s not to say the White House has totally ignored OSHA. Most notably, it’s trying to install new political leadership with the nomination of Scott Mugno, the former vice president of safety for FedEx Ground, as the agency’s head. Mugno would join Loren Sweatt, a longtime policy adviser to House Republicans, whom the White House plugged in as OSHA’s No. 2 in July 2017.

OSHA inspections actually spiked a little in Trump’s first year, drawing some praise from even President Barack Obama’s very pro-union OSHA boss David Michaels.