40 inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have vacated their positions since President Donald J. Trump took office, reducing the federal agency’s headcount of inspectors by 4%, NBC News reported Monday, citing data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
As the number of OSHA inspectors dipped to under 1000 in early October, the agency has not hired any new personnel to fill the vacant jobs, NBC’s coverage said. The news organization observed that the departure of some of the regulator’s staff is part of an overall exodus of government workers across various agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The figures are also a result of an on-going hiring freeze in various federal agencies imposed by the Trump administration, and indicative of the president’s policy to reduce or halt the expansion of bureaucracy.
Labor Department spokesperson Eric Holland stated to NBC that the agency has hired “several additional inspectors” and that OSHA is currently seeking more than 24 inspectors.
Testifying before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Nov. 15, 2017, Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta told officials that he authorized OSHA to hire Compliance Safety and Health Officers in August 2017 under a new, streamlined process “to bring new OSHA staff on board in an expedited manner to ensure that OSHA has the necessary personnel to carry out its important work.”
Despite the reduced number of inspectors since Trump took office, the Labor Department insists that the actual number of facility inspections has increased during that time. OSHA has carried out 32,396 inspections between October 2016 and September 2017, Labor Department data said, the first lift in the number of annual inspections in five years.
Some officials claim that the current staffing levels at regulatory agency hinder its ability to properly perform its role.
“OSHA is far too understaffed to fulfill its mandate of reducing workplace injuries,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in the NBC article. “Under the Trump Administration, OSHA has suffered a troubling decline in both staff and workplace inspections in key areas of the country.”