As a new administration is set to take over in the new year, here are a few changes you should look out for in regard to OSHA.

A cartoon of Obama, Trump and Joe Biden standing under a nailed board with OSHA on it.

Re-instatement of the Whistleblower Protection Committee

In 2009, the Obama Administration started to develop OSHA comprehensive infectious disease standards and dedicated commitment to worker “whistleblower” protections. As the Trump Administration took over, OSHA leadership decided to roll-back on the rule-making agenda put in place by the previous administration which resulted in dismissing the ‘Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee’ as well as four other committees. Look out for a fast reinstatement of the Whistleblower Committee under the new administration.

The Creation of an Emergency Standard for COVID-19

Thus far, the Trump Administration has chosen not to take any major action towards creating a standard for the current pandemic by saying that the existing safety regulations and recommendations currently in place are sufficient. The administration’s main concern was that creating such a standard would be seen as a burden for employers and increase cost and complicate litigation. The Chamber also believed that creating a strict standard would not provide employers with the flexibility they may need to change regulations as the pandemic evolves in unpredicted ways. The Biden’s administration has public plans for OSHA to finalize a permanent infectious disease standard, initiated by the Obama Administration and shelved by the Trump administration, as well as enforce an Emergency Temporary Standard for frontline workers in response to the pandemic.

An Increase in the Number of Investigators

Under the Trump Administration, OSHA has reported the lowest level of inspections in their 50 years. The Biden Administration vouches to double the number of OSHA investigators in order to effectively and rigorously enforce the existing laws and standards.

Appointing a Head of OSHA

The Biden Administration has already indicated that they will ensure to fill the position of the head of OSHA. The old administration has failed to do so after Scott Mugno withdrew from consideration in 2019. As Obama chose to appoint an academic for the position, and Trump opted for an expert of the industry, expect to see Biden’s Administration favor an academic candidate.

Regulation by Shaming

The Obama Administration had created a “regulation by shaming” policy. This policy was an aggressive enforcement policy that publicized the names of violators whose fines accumulated over $40,000, especially those whose actions put their workers in danger. A study conducted by Duke University suggests that the typical press release reduced safety violations by anywhere between 30-73% at similar workplaces in surrounding locations. Trump’s administration ended the policy in early 2017. It is safe to anticipate the quick reinstatement of the “regulation by shaming” policy under Biden’s administration.

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