During the Trump administration, some were critical of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for taking a too-relaxed approach to enforcement. The number of inspections and citations between 2016 and 2019 were lower than previous years, and OSHA was not always as vocal about its enforcement efforts. Then the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage in March 2020.
At that time OSHA appeared overwhelmed and unprepared to fully address the hazards of COVID-19 in the workplace. In February 2021, OSHA’s Inspector General (OIG) found that onsite inspection and travel restrictions led to half as many inspections between February and October 2020 as during the same period in 2019. However, there was a 15 percent increase in complaints during the same time period. During the same time period the number of citations OSHA issued were significantly less than those issued by state-run OSHA plans. OIG’s report concluded that there was “an increased risk that OSHA has not been providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites.”