The nation has decided, and the next President of the United States will be: Donald Trump! You might have read about this somewhere. But what does his yuge victory mean for OSHA for the next four years? Well, the honest answer is, it’s hard to say. Trump hasn’t made nearly as many comments (or tweets) on OSHA and its recent rules as he has with respect to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, as a former real estate developer, one might imagine that he’s familiar with OSHA and OSHA inspectors. Most interestingly, Trump’s major support base of working-class Americans is the very same base that OSHA is charged with protecting. What are our best guesses as to what to expect?
First off, Trump is likely to walk back a number of OSHA rules, regulations, and guidance. A number of OSHA rulemakings finalized within the past few years as well as a few enforcement guidance documents have resulted in significant new compliance costs across a number of industry sectors. Trump can work with his Republican Congress to walk back finalized rules under the Congressional Review Act, can unilaterally rescind most administrative memoranda and guidance (which have been heavily utilized throughout the Obama Administration), and can elect to stop defending some of these rules and regulations in the courts. Additionally, we may see a return to the way OSHA functioned under previous Republican administrations: less focus on regulatory development and enforcement, and a greater focus on compliance assistance and public/private partnerships.
So what, specifically, might Trump target? Well [speculating somewhat here], based on candidate Trump’s statements about protecting American manufacturing and working toward energy independence, President Trump may focus on the silica Permissible Exposure Limit update, the illness and injury recordkeeping rule, the enforcement guidance on chemical concentrations for the Process Safety Management program, and more. Trump could also remove the upstream oil & gas sector from the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. An additional target may be the Executive Order on weighing safety and labor law violations in procurement decisions, and the guidance OSHA recently issued on that subject. If OSHA’s updates to its Process Safety Management program are not yet issued when Trump takes office, he may also slow (or stop) the development of that rulemaking as well.
Bottom line: We can’t say exactly what changes President Trump with bring to OSHA, but we are pretty sure they will be yuge. It also remains unclear who Trump will choose to lead the agency for his Administration. However, as always, Trump remains a wild card—and when he shows his hand, we’ll be here to report on it.