WASHINGTON, D.C. – During Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, Trump Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia claimed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would “not hesitate to bring a case” if the agency finds coronavirus-related violations. In reality, Scalia’s OSHA has fallen down on the job when it comes to protecting workers and investigating thousands of new claims related to the COVID-19 crisis. Since the beginning of 2020, records show that only 3.7% of all OSHA-reported inspections have been associated with COVID-19 while OSHA citations have plummeted by over 17,000. If this is not a “hesitation” to act in Scalia’s book, what is?
RHETORIC: Scalia Is Investigating OSHA Claims Related To COVID-19
- In his testimony, Secretary Scalia said, “We’ve issued one citation to date. […] I would add that we have a six-month limitations period. Of course, it’s been less than six month since the virus came here, so we have a number of cases that we are investigating, and if we find violations we will certainly not hesitate to bring a case. This is something I’ve talked to our head of OSHA about a number of— talked to our head of OSHA about a number of times.” [video link]
REALITY: OSHA’s Inspection Rate Has Decreased Since COVID-19
- Since January, OSHA has registered over 20,000 inspections and only 3.7% of them are publicly linked to COVID-19.After the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was “on an emergency footing”to prepare for coronavirus, Scalia failed to oversee OSHA and enforce occupational safety and health laws. As the agency received thousands of complaints in response to COVID-19, OSHA citations decreased.
- OSHA’s inspection rate was higher before coronavirus was declared a national emergency. The number of OSHA citations on Scalia’s watch fell by over 17,000between January 1 and May 22, 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019.Over 15,000 of these appear to have been in the two months following the COVID-19 emergency declaration. OSHA’s investigations are decreasing, but worker complaints continue rising. Workers are concerned regarding their exposure to COVID-19 and “a lack of safeguards at their places of employment.”
REALITY: Scalia Is Ignoring Major Health Organizations’ Workplace Guidance
- Scalia is ignoring pleas from workers’ groups and Congress to enact rules requiring employers to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s safety guidelines.As employers fail to keep their workers safe, Scalia fails to adequately run OSHA. Instead of issuing an enforceable coronavirus standard, OSHA offered employers a “booklet with suggestions”that “creates no new legal obligations.” Scalia is abandoning essential workers to their employers’ whims.