There is one major regulatory agency in the federal government charged with enforcing workplace safety, suggesting legislation to protect workers from illness and injury, and helping prevent these 5,000+ annual fatalities. That is OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Though some are less willing to say so than others, it is a matter of faith among Republican political leaders that OSHA is an evil organization. No major figure in the G.O.P. does not want to see OSHA either severely restricted or eliminated altogether.
One needn't do very much research to discover the direction of OSHA under the Bush administration; simply Google the words "OSHA" and "Bush" and your first page of hits will tell the story. Highlights of the story include how Bush has neutered the organization and left job safety enforcement in the hands of industry; how Bush's "business-friendly" approach to OSHA enforcement has led directly to an increase in, among other things, tuberculosis; how the administration has distorted OSHA data unfavorable to its narrative and punished scientists for reporting the truth; attempted (and sometimes succeeded) in slashing funding for the organization; overseen a massive falling behind in enforcement of hazards and reporting of injuries; undertaken a lax approach to running the agency that has led to a near-total lack of new workplace safety standards and worker protection initiatives; and killed workplace safety legislation that almost certainly would have saved lives. Workplace illness and injury is a legitimate threat to all working Americans, as opposed to, say, Islamic terrorism, which is far less of a threat than being hit by lightning.
Every single year since September 11th, 2001, OSHA -- even underfunded and understaffed as it is, and with a management team that seems to have direct orders from the President to sit on their hands -- has reported an increase in total workplace safety violations, serious workplace safety violations, willful workplace safety violations, and repeat workplace safety violations. That's an increase every year over the year before from 2001 to 2007, not an increase in aggregate. The AFL-CIO reports that this year, 2008, may be the most dangerous year for American workers since OSHA was founded in 1970.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's total budget for 2008 was more than one hundred times smaller than the budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
So, to recap: the organization whose job it is to prevent double the fatalities of 9/11 every single year, with a budget less than 1% of that of the agency designed to prevent domestic terrorism (which, so far, has not cost a single American life since 2001)? Its very existence is opposed by the Republican Party.
Something to think about next time the G.O.P. talks about how their job is to keep you safe.