Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Senate Committee Investigates OSHA Foot Dragging

According to testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, OSHA takes far too long to adopt new safety standards in response to industrial and construction injuries and deaths. A report from GAO points out that promulgation of new OSHA rules takes just a little less than eight years. Washington state’s former OSHA director Michael Silverstein told the committee, “We have created barriers based on false alarms, and the need now is to lower them so that worker protection can proceed again without delay. It is no exaggeration to say that lives are at stake.”

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin echoed Silverstein’s sentiments. “It is simply unconcsionable that workers must suffer while an OSHA rule is mired in bureaucracy,” he remarked. In delivering the agency’s report to the Committee, GAO’s Director of Education, Workforce and Income Security Revae Moran testified, “Why it would take 19 years to set a scaffolding standard doesn’t necessarily make sense.” The GAO report found that a quarter of OSHA regulations approved since 1981 have taken more than a decade to complete. As one extreme example, the GAO report notes that OSHA has been studying silica dust exposure since 1974, but still has not issued even a proposed regulation.

OSHA issued 47 new safety rules between 1980 and 1999, but has issued only 11 new rules since the beginning of 2000. HELP Committee Ranking Member Mike Enzi also bemoaned the Obama administration’s reluctance to use voluntary safety programs, such as OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs, to fill in safety regulation gaps. “Voluntary programs involving employees and management such as the Voluntary Protection Programs have been shown to make workplaces considerably safer and save money,” Enzi said. “Yet under the current administration VPP has been threatened and undermined.”

blog comments powered by Disqus