For the first time since they were introduced in the 1930s, regulations to protect workers and create a safer American workplace are being openly questioned. The US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday, March 1 to overturn regulations requiring record keeping for injuries incurred in the workplace.
There are two ways to lower reported worker injury rates. The first is to actually attempt to reduce worker injuries; to heighten safety standards and create mechanisms for workers to report and subsequently regulate unsafe conditions. These measures will eventually result in a net decrease in the real number of American workers injured.
The second way to attack the problem is to simply decrease the amount of reporting that happens regarding workplace injuries. That way you can claim victory because reported injury rates have gone down, even if actual injury rates are not down. The former method is clearly the most logical-- it actually works to improve the lives and conditions of American workers.
And yet, under the guise of being “pro-business” and fighting for the rights of individual states, the Trump administration has chosen to go the latter route. They are trying to solve the problem of workplace injuries by getting rid of the reporting requirement. This is all being done under the pretense of returning power to the states and stopping supposedly “anti-business” regulation.
But the “anti-business” regulations that are “driving companies out of the country” are not put in place by malevolent entities seeking government oversight for the sake of government oversight. Rather, these regulations are to protect the American worker.
In a year or two, I expect that the Labor Department will have some reports saying that injuries are way down under the Trump Administration (or at least reported injuries). But this will not demonstrate an improvement in the life of the average American worker. Nor will it represent an improvement in the safety or quality of life in the average American workplace. Rather it will demonstrate the continuation of a troubling policy shift-- towards valuing the bottom line of businesses and the desire to scale back regulation in any area possible over the safety and wellbeing of American workers.