Decades of work to improve workplace safety could unravel under the Trump administration, the national AFL-CIO said in its annual “Death on the Job” report released Thursday, days before Workers Memorial Day Saturday.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration already doesn’t have the inspectors or the budget to watch the nine million workplaces; in fact, OSHA only has enough federal inspectors to visit a workplace once every 158 years, the report says.
State OSHA inspectors could inspect workplaces once every 102 years.
Coal miners could particularly be at risk if the Trump administration acts on its intention to re-examine the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s limit on exposure to coal dust, which can cause black lung disease.
That particularly hits home for Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, whose father and several male relatives died of black lung disease.
The Trump administration’s proposal to slash the Department of Labor’s budget and roll back regulations only puts workers at risk, AFL-CIO officials said in a conference call Thursday.
In 2016, 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions, and 5,190 workers were killed on the job that year, the report says. In the mining sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, the rate of fatalities was three-times the national average.
In West Virginia, eight people died in coal mining accidents in 2017, according to MSHA.
Officials also noted the prevalence of workplace violence, which is now the second-leading cause of death in the workplace. In 2016, 866 deaths were caused by violence; 500 were homicides.
“It’s a real particular problem for women workers, particularly for [those in] health care and social services interacting with patients and clients,” said Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO’s director of safety and health.