Obama’s Exemplary Record on Protecting Workers’ Safety and Health

by Rachel Nass

In the final week of the presidency of Barack Obama, we have released a new policy brief that examines the administration’s exceptional record on enforcing workplace safety regulations while underscoring how vital the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its regulatory authority are to our nation’s workers.

In the brief, we argue that the Senate should not overlook worker health and safety issues as it prepares to consider fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder’s nomination for labor secretary. Mr. Puzder, an outspoken critic of regulations, has consistently failed to acknowledge the crucial role that regulations play in protecting workers’ health and saving lives in dangerous workplaces, all while his own company has racked up a substantial tally of workplace safety violations.

In a very direct way, a strong Labor Department saves the lives of workers across the country, just as a weak Labor Department allows workers to be placed in grave danger and dramatically increases the rate at which workers are killed on the job or develop chronic and even debilitating health conditions on the job.

Under President Obama’s Labor Department, the rate of workers killed on the job dropped from 3.7 per 100,000 workers in 2008 to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2015. Comparing the average workplace fatalities over the last three years of the Obama administration (2013-2015) to the last three years of the Bush administration (2006-2008), there was an average of almost 1,000 fewer workers killed on the job each year during the Obama administration.

Labor Department leadership under Obama also made significant progress towards a more effective whistleblower program, protecting from retaliation workers who raise health and safety concerns, file an OSHA complaint, or report an injury. In addition, the administration was swift to expose and correct deficiencies in state agency partners.

With the safety and health of America’s workers in the balance, we cannot afford to move backward on health and safety. This policy brief outlines the incredible strides that have been made in the last eight years, with an eye towards the critical work that lies ahead—and the importance of ensuring that the new secretary of labor is committed to the wellbeing of workers across the nation.

DOWNLOAD THE BRIEF:
Worker Safety and Health in the Obama Years: An Exemplary Record

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