If you work one of many jobs, your safety may be at greater risk since President Donald Trump took office. This is thanks to a number of steps Trump’s administration took over the past year regarding workplace safety. For instance, the president signed a bill axing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule in April 2017. This rule required federal contractors to report and correct major safety violations.
Another blow to worker safety is Trump’s plans to shrink federal funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). One result of this move is there are already fewer safety inspectors to monitor companies across the country.
Does Trump’s relaxed stance on workplace regulations stem from his history of OSHA fines for safety violations at his own worksites? In 2008, one of his contractors paid a $44,000 fine after a worker fell 42 stories to his death at the Trump SoHo hotel in New York City. Here we’ll take a look at 15 occupations where safety could very well be compromised now more than ever since Trump took office in January 2017.
Mining activity increased in 2017. In particular, U.S. coal output was up 15% through the end of July over the same timeframe in 2016. This was amidst higher prices for natural gas (a competing power plant fuel) and increased demand from China. Along with the increased production came an uptick in miner deaths, which had reached 11 by August.
“You hear the president and others in his administration talk about there being too many regulations, promoting coal jobs and bringing back coal, but never a peep about making sure those jobs are safe,’’ said Celeste Monforton, a lecturer at Texas State University who served as a past advisor to the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Next: A blow to the mechanic industry.
Mechanics often work under federal contracts, performing maintenance or repairs on vehicles, trains, and aircraft. With Trump eliminating the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, federal contractors may now continue to receive federal money after endangering their workers on the job. Accidents suffered by mechanics include sprains, eye injuries, chemical burns, loss of limbs or fingers, and falls. To make matters worse, if OSHA funding is cut, mechanic injuries can become more frequent across the board, whether they’re employed by a federal contractor or not.
Next: Workers who might be less protected from asbestos
3. Manufacturing workers
People in manufacturing jobs create products from raw materials or other components. Today, around 12 million Americans work in this industry. They usually work in factories, plants, or mills. Occupations include line workers, shipyard workers, welders, pipefitters, electricians, and more. These workers have experienced high levels of workplace-related injury and death, some related to exposure to toxic materials like asbestos, lead, and arsenic. These workers are especially vulnerable to any relaxation of safety regulations, including the elimination of the safe workplaces rule.
Next: One of the most dangerous occupations could get even worse.
4. Iron and steel workers
Iron and steel workers install beams, girders, and columns to form buildings, bridges, and other structures. They also secure steel bars to reinforce highways, buildings, bridges, and tunnels. The high risk of injury makes this one of the most dangerous occupations. Workers often handle sharp materials and heavy equipment and work on high-elevation platforms. Falls, amputations, head injuries, broken bones, and burns can occur. These workers under federal contractors could be at further risk, thanks to elimination of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. In addition, any cuts in funding for OSHA in the near future could put more iron and steel workers at risk across the board.
Next: The industry with the highest rate of workplace accidents
When campaigning in 2016, Trump promised to revive Oregon’s timber industry, which had been severely curbed by federal laws. However, workers in this field may be put more at risk for accidents and death if OSHA funding shrinks. The job carries significant hazards due to sharp tools and workers being elevated high off the ground. In fact, logging was the industry with the highest rate of workplace accidents in 2015, with 133 injuries for every 10,000 workers.
Next: Truck drivers saw one safety bright spot in 2017.
6. Truck drivers
“No one knows America like truckers know America,” Trump said in March 2017. Truck drivers are especially at risk of fatal accidents, with 885 deaths occurring per 100,000 drivers in 2015. OSHA regulations apply in particular to workers when loading and unloading trucks at docks, constructions sites, etc. Drivers may be traveling on or unloading materials at hazardous waste sites. Thanks to the elimination of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, accidents may not be reported in a timely manner. This could allow for contractors who operate in dangerous conditions to keep working for the government.
One bright spot for truckers under Trump was creation of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, which took effect Dec. 18, 2017. These devices monitor the time drivers spend on the road to ensure they take proper breaks for rest.
Next: Inexperienced pilots could cause accidents.
7. Aircraft pilots
Trump has been in the news for a number of air travel-related issues, including his proposal to privatize the country’s air traffic control system, which has been met with some opposition. He also took credit in a tweet for 2017 having no commercial aviation deaths. One issue that boils down to flight safety set Trump at odds with lawmakers recently. He nominated Bruce Landsberg to the National Transportation Safety Board. Landsberg opposes a 2013 rule that requires the second pilot on every regional flight to have at least 1,500 hours of flight time experience. He believes “setting an arbitrary number” of hours isn’t right. Those who disagree with Landsberg say rules like this one are what makes air traffic as safe as it is.
Next: An industry’s fatality rate is 29 times higher than the national average.
Safety risks for fishing workers include handling heavy equipment, falling overboard, and dealing with extreme weather conditions. In fact, one study found the fatality rate in the fishing industry is 29 times higher than the national average. Vessel disasters, which include capsizes, fires, groundings, and sinking, accounted for the most deaths. Recommended measures include conducting monthly safety drills, wearing personal flotation devices, and inspecting ships’ watertight integrity. As you can see, a lot could go wrong if OSHA enforcement became relaxed due to lack of funding under Trump.
Next: Safety is important for these workers at great heights.
It’s not a job for the faint of heart, but roofers are needed every day across America to repair, maintain, or install roofs. Probably the biggest danger involved includes being high up, followed by laboring for long hours in summer heat. Roofers are also sometimes exposed to dangerous substances present on construction sites. OSHA currently has regulations in place to protect roofers’ safety in case of falls, electrocution, and tool-related accidents.
However, roofing companies not following proper safety procedures might continue to contract with the federal government, due to the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule’s elimination. This could spell disaster for those working in unsafe conditions.
Next: Electrical hazards are great in this industry.
10. Electrical power-line installers and repairers
Installing electrical power lines comes with its hazards – as does repairing cables during outages, which are common enough occurrences. Daily, these workers face dangers involving electricity and being high above ground. While safety regulations for these workers are in place, electrical contractors now face looser reporting requirements when their employees get hurt on the job.
Next: Failure to ban a pesticide that harms the nervous system
In a move that might be distressing to farmers, the Trump administration decided not to ban a controversial pesticide used on California farms. In March 2017, the administration halted plans to ban Chlorpyrifos, rejecting claims by Environmental Protection Agency scientists that the chemical is harmful to humans. The insecticide is part of a class of chemicals that can poison the nervous systems of insects and mammals. Currently, environmentalists and farm workers are pushing the state of California to step in and ban the insecticide.
Next: A dirty job that poses a full variety of risks
12. Garbage and recyclable material collectors
Ask anyone in any neighborhood across America. The regular pickup of trash and recyclable materials is an essential task that cannot go interrupted. However, working this job poses significant risks, including operating heavy equipment, maneuvering around pedestrians and cars, and sometimes handling hazardous materials. OSHA funding and staffing cuts could negatively impact this group of hard workers, especially since OSHA has lost 40 inspectors since Trump took office, bringing its force to fewer than 1,000.
Next: “Diseases don’t respect politics.”
13. Health care workers
OSHA had proposed several actions under President Obama in fall of 2016. One of these was to create an infectious disease standard that would require employers to establish a comprehensive infection control program. This would help protect employees from exposure to pathogens. Under Trump, however, this rule moved to the “long-term actions” list, meaning it won’t move forward quickly. This rule being pushed to back burner puts health care workers at risk, said Bonnie Castillo, health and safety director for National Nurses United.
“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.”
Next: A common carcinogen isn’t properly regulated.
14. Sandblasters and rock drillers
People who work in sandblasting and rock drilling jobs are often exposed to crystalline silica. This common natural material, used to make glass, pottery, ceramics, concrete, and bricks, has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. It has been associated with fatalities and illnesses by reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.
The government established a rule in 2016 that would reduce the permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air during an eight-hour shift. This equals half the previous limit for industries in general and five times lower for the construction industry in particular. Currently, however, OSHA is delaying enforcement of the new standards under the Trump administration.
Next: A tiny yet important safety organization is on the chopping block.
15. Industrial chemical workers
Trump’s budget has marked 19 small federal agencies for elimination, including the tiny Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The $11 million office currently investigates the causes of big chemical accidents and proposes safety improvements. The 44-person staff is awaiting word on its definite future. The results of the CSB’s work include banned natural gas blows in Connecticut, an improved fire code in New York City, and increased public safety at oil and gas sites in Mississippi. If the administration gets rid of the CSB, the conditions faced by workers who deal with dangerous chemicals could become quite a bit more hazardous.
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