Federal agencies Inspections

OSHA-watchers respond to NBC News report on fewer agency inspectors

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New York — The number of OSHA inspectors fell 4 percent over the first nine months of 2017, according to information obtained by NBC News through a Freedom of Information Act request.

As of Oct. 2, 40 inspectors had left OSHA and had not been replaced since President Donald Trump took office. The total number of OSHA inspectors dropped to fewer than 1,000, the report states. However, NBC News cited Department of Labor data showing that OSHA inspections were up from late 2016 to September 2017, the first increase in five years.

Some conservatives say the move is progress toward efficiency. Critics claim damage has been done at the regional office level.

For example, the NBC News report points out that the Southeast region lost 10 inspectors. That region includes Mississippi, where inspections were down 26 percent in the first eight-plus months of the Trump administration despite – according to the National Employment Law Project – it being one of the nation’s leading states for worker injury and fatality rates.

Watchdog group Public Citizen criticized the administration for not maintaining OSHA’s inspection staffing level after the departures.

“Trump’s track record on workplace safety is directly at odds with his campaign promise that ‘the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them,’” Shanna Devine, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, said in a Jan. 8 press release. “To the contrary, his actions continue to put workers in harm’s way while lining industry’s pockets.”

In contrast, NBC News quoted Rachel Greszler, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, as saying the administration is to be lauded for reducing “redundancy, waste and inefficiency” in the federal workforce while keeping enough staff to function.

“This won’t mean slashing jobs immediately, but it will mean transitioning – through retirements, attrition and reassigning current employees – to a smaller federal workforce,” Greszler said.

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