Trump’s regulatory rollbacks could cut current safety laws and injure workers

Trump’s regulatory rollbacks could cut current safety laws and injure workers
© Getty Images

America is growing, but its infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. Engineers grade most of our roads, buildings, and bridges a “D.” Our infrastructure workers are critical in improving the nation’s foundation, and they’re part of America’s hardest working generation in decades.

Exhausted workers often feel like they can’t say no to more work, and are subsequently exposed to unsafe working conditions while dangerously fatigued.

With the Trump administration’s upcoming infrastructure bill, even more workers will be called into action. They will be depended upon to rapidly build, maintain, and repair our infrastructure, especially if an estimated $1 trillion in spending is triggered.

Unfortunately, Trump’s regulatory rollback could cut current safety laws, leaving workers at a higher risk of injury and danger. Fewer regulations may help industries cut corners and provide immediate savings, but will harm them in the long run as employees are injured on the job, which often requires more cost.

Regulatory rollbacks could harm workplace safety

Trump’s infrastructure plan aims to curtail regulations, supposedly reducing the amount of red tape that infrastructure industries must navigate. So far, about 67 regulations have been repealed and three have been implemented, generating an estimated savings of $8.1 billion in regulatory costs for businesses. As safety regulations are cut, infrastructure operations will have to spend less on employee training and safety, allowing them to hire more people with less training, and potentially leading to employees working longer, harder shifts.

While corporate savings can spur growth, decreased safety regulations can lead to more employees hurt or killed on the job, potentially resulting in expensive lawsuits and additional costs in the long run. To truly save, businesses must prioritize worker safety and care for their most valuable resources: their employees. For this reason, sleep apnea is a major concern in industrial workplaces, and addressing it can quickly create significant savings and improve commercial and public safety conditions.

The dangers of fatigue and sleep apnea

When fatigue sets in, safety decreases. In fact, you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if fatigued. One major cause of fatigue, sleep apnea, is directly tied to decreased productivity, while putting workers at risk of injury. However, sleep apnea complications can be addressed beginning with a free, simple questionnaire to help commercial operations greatly improve safety conditions and keep projects on track.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops periodically during sleep. It's most often caused by airway obstructions, but also often due to the brain not sending proper signals to the muscles controlling breathing.

Many people simply dismiss sleep apnea as only affecting the obese, but everyone is at risk. It can even be caused by airways being too narrow for proper airflow. As symptoms including coughing, waking up with headaches, feeling exhausted after hours of rest, and loud snoring go unnoticed, potential health risks skyrocket. Sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, memory loss, weight gain, job impairment, and more.

With over 42 million Americans affected by sleep-breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, many industrial workers are at great risk. Their jobs are exhausting, and they are unable to recharge without a restful night’s sleep.

Sleep is critical to overall health. Adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but 30 percent report averaging less than six hours, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Those figures consider restful sleep. Sleep apnea robs that restful sleep regardless of the number of hours someone does “lay down." 

To simplify, exhaustion is the equivalent of intoxication. When exhausted, your judgment is impaired, reaction times are lowered, aggression is increased, and more — leading to disasters in the workplace. Fatigue costs employers an estimated $136 billion annually in health-related lost productivity.

Exhaustion is especially hazardous in industrial workplaces, where workers must be alert to remain safe and alive. Some infrastructure accidents in the past year include workers being exposed to toxic chemicals, run over by machinery, and collapsing due to exhaustion. Safety is a concern for workers, as well as motorists who often use bridges and tunnels as they’re repaired. Each and every mistake can be extremely dangerous for all parties involved.

Benefits of sleep apnea testing

Employers can screen workers for sleep apnea with a quick online survey where they will answer questions about their sleep quality and regular habits, and specific criteria can be assessed. Based on the results, employers and workers will know their potential risk for sleep apnea and if they should take further action towards correcting this disorder with a CPAP machine.

Once sleep apnea is corrected and major health risks like heart disease are reduced, insurance costs will decrease, as it’s much less expensive for industries to care for healthy employees. Additionally, if the workplace accident rate is reduced, savings will quickly start to improve your bottom line.

For example, fewer accidents such as workers being hit by machinery and breaking bones, means fewer workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, a reduced turnover rate will prove cost-effective, as workers will want to stay in a safe environment, and as all business leaderships know — retaining employees saves money.

Studies suggest it costs about $1,200 to hire and train a new employee, so if industries must hire more workers, the cost can quickly rise. While construction sites are short-handed, workers become more stressed and exhausted, potentially leading to more deadly mistakes. When workers are well-rested, their focus and attention to detail increase, making them more likely to be aware of their surroundings and remember training to decrease the rate of workplace accidents.

There are companies that offer full sleep apnea service programs to ensure the health and safety of all workers.

As Trump’s rollbacks allow industries more freedom with fewer regulations to navigate, safety laws can fall by the wayside. The shortsighted cost-savings promised by this plan pale in comparison to the potential savings of sound safety practices. Worker safety should be of paramount concern, as caring for workers creates savings for the company, shareholders, and the employee themselves.

Michael Trufant is a business unit manager at Industrial Markets, Aeroflow Healthcare.