OSHA has broken its media silence – sort of.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent out its first press release under the Trump Administration on Feb. 23, touting the renewal of a safety partnership between the agency and an Ohio construction trade group.
It was the first release the federal safety watchdog had sent out since Jan. 19, the day before President Donald Trump took office after a campaign that pledged to bring a more business-friendly approach to Washington.
The drought broken, OSHA has sent out nine more press releases in March and one so far in April.
However, all the new OSHA press statements have touted various safety workshops and industry partnerships, with no new announcements since Trump took office of safety investigations of construction companies and enforcement actions and fines levied after accidents.
Under the Obama Administration, press releases detailing investigations of contractors over safety violations were a regular occurrence, part of a large strategy to pressure or shame companies into making changes or paying up, noted Eric Conn, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who has defended companies against OSHA allegations.
After accidents, contractors could find themselves taken to task publicly for everything from roofers failing to wear harnesses to workers going into trenches without cave-in protections.
Conn contends it’s no coincidence that OSHA stopped sending out enforcement press releases.
Based on his discussions with the Trump Administration “landing team” in charge of overseeing changes at OSHA, Conn said he concluded that a decision has been made to put the violation press release on hold until new appointees are in place at the Labor Dept. and OSHA.
Overall, Conn believes there will be a move away from the approach used during the Obama Administration that he contends focused too much on putting companies on the hot seat.
“One hundred percent of them were intended to embarrass,” said Conn of the enforcement press releases. “That program was not well received by employers.”
Still, in a departure from its recent press release pattern, OSHA did send out a release on April 3 announcing that it had ordered Wells Fargo to reinstate a former bank manager “who lost his job after reporting suspected fraudulent behavior to superiors and a bank ethics hotline.”