Thursday, January 08, 2004

Republican OSHA Betrays Business

You Read It Here First

You may recall that I recently wrote about how the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission threw out OSHA “egregious penalty policy” which enabled the agency to fine companies for large amounts of money by citing for each instance of a violation. For example, if 10 workers are exposed to asbestos, OSHA could hand down ten separate fines, instead of just one.

To its credit, OSHA has decided to appeal that decision, one of the few good actions OSHA has taken over the past three years. But even that one piece of good news was too much for some pro-business interests:
officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are now battling for what they evidently see as a cherished right -- to fiscally obliterate, rather than merely punish, companies of their choosing.
What poor, innocent company is OSHA threatening with obliteration? Faithful Confined Space readers will recall the Ho Decision, in which the employer, Eric Ho
signed a property disclosure form indicating that he had been made aware of the presence of friable asbestos in the building. Nonetheless, with full knowledge of the conditions and the need for professional removal of the ACM, Ho began asbestos removal with untrained, unprotected Mexican nationals, none of whom spoke English or understood the hazards associated with asbestos.

Ho's disregard for the law is evidenced by his failure to obtain work permits for the site, as required by the City of Houston and his surreptitious removal of asbestos after the City attempted to close down the site. When the ongoing work was discovered by an inspector for the City of Houston the Bellaire site was red tagged for probable violations of asbestos abatement requirements. Ho was ordered to cease its demolition operations. However, the City's attempt to close down Ho's worksite failed. After soliciting a bid for asbestos removal from a certified asbestos abatement contractor, Ho chose to recommence removal operations under cover of darkness with the same untrained, unprotected laborers, rather than engage the qualified contractor at the named bid price of $172,266.

Ho retained the qualified abatement contractor to complete the asbestos abatement only after the March 11, 1998 explosion brought his nighttime activity to light and the Texas Department of Health onto the site.

Not only does the evidence specifically demonstrate Ho's disregard for his employees' exposure to asbestos, the record contains ample additional evidence of Ho's indifference to those same workers' general health and welfare. Ho's laborers worked 12 hour shifts 7 nights a week under substandard conditions: the workers were locked inside the Bellaire site; they worked without electricity or ventilation; adequate sanitary facilities were not available; no potable water was provided.
But according to the Houston Business Journal
OSHA would have the public believe that this case threatens to leave the federal agency toothless. But the ruling, in fact, merely suggests that the agency is expected to be reasonable -- and that's good news indeed for the entire business world.

The review commission was established as an independent government entity specifically to guarantee that OSHA doesn't get overzealous.

It's encouraging to see that the commission has the courage to do its job.
Overzealous?” Unreasonable? As far as I’m concerned, Ho should have been sentenced to jail for a period approximating the latency period for asbestos-related cancer – say 30 years? He should feel happy he got away so cheap.


And while we're on the theme of Republicans betraying Republican principles, this conservative Arizona columnist thinks George Bush has betrayed the conservative principles on which he was elected, yet traitors like John McCain continue to sell the scam that "that there is a connection between political parties and principles.":
If that weren't so, Arizona's Republican officials would be supporting the nomination of a presidential candidate whose platform contained much less nation-building and much more fiscal restraint. Dennis Kucinich.
Yeah, throw the bastard out of the White House. Where's the Republican Ralph Nader?