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December 08, 2016
Safety lawyer shares predictions about OSHA in the Trump era

Americans are getting an indication of President-elect Trump’s plans and priorities in some areas. But so far OSHA, and labor issues for that matter, haven’t been the subject of his tweets and other statements. An attorney who specializes in job safety offers insight on what may be in store for the next four years.

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Catherine Wilmarth, an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, points out that the working-class voters largely credited with Trump’s win, are the same base OSHA is charged to protect. She, like other safety and health observers, anticipates that Trump is likely to walk back a number of existing rules, regulations, and guidance. One way to do this, she points out, is by using the Congressional Review Act, which allows the newly seated Congress to rescind, through an expedited legislative process, any regulation passed during the previous 60 legislative session days. In addition, the president can unilaterally rescind most administrative memorandums and guidance, and refrain from defending certain regulations in court.

“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,” she adds.

Based on the President-elect’s statements about protecting American manufacturing and achieving energy independence, Wilmarth also believes Trump may focus on the silica permissible exposure limit update, illness and injury recordkeeping rule, and enforcement guidance for chemical concentrations for process safety management. And he may act to remove the upstream oil and gas sector from OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

While it’s impossible to know what changes a Trump presidency will mean for OSHA and regulated employers, Wilmarth adds, “We are pretty sure they wail be ‘yuge.’”

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