40 inspectors for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been removed through attrition in President Trump’s first year in office. This is due to the president’s larger efforts to slow the growth of the federal workforce, which have led so far to the removal of 16,000 of its permanent workers. While New Jersey was not hit hard by the decrease in OSHA inspectors, the southeastern region is.
Mississippi, for instance, which has the highest workplace fatality and injury rates in the country, saw a 26 percent decrease in the number of OSHA inspections since Trump took office. Fewer inspectors means fewer inspections, which in turn means that employer negligence is not being addressed. There have been cases of OSHA not following up on reports of serious injuries. This is especially worrying for high-risk industries like construction, manufacturing, and meatpacking.
Industry groups, on the other hand, have stressed that inspections alone do not boost worker safety but that having the appropriate safety programs does. Meanwhile, OSHA has filled about two dozen vacancies with recruits who can be trained to carry out its work. The federal hiring process can take time, however, so the effects of the staff shortage are long-term. OSHA also faces budget cuts in the future; last year, the House proposed a cut to the tune of $21 million.
The usual route that injured workers take to receive damages is to file for workers’ compensation benefits. To file for these, the victim need not prove that anyone’s negligence caused the accident; however, the settlement is usually lower than what a victim could get in a personal injury claim. The workers’ compensation system also waives a victim’s right to sue. A lawyer may be able to build a case and negotiate for a reasonable settlement, including temporary or permanent disability benefits.