Newsday began a series today on business domination of regulatory agencies under the Bush administration. The article focuses on the refusal of former chemical industry executive, now OSHA director John Henshaw, to comply with the recommendation of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to revise OSHA's Process Safety Management standard to include reactive hazards. Henshaw chose to set up a voluntary industry "Alliance" instead.
The article points out that
Henshaw represents an important facet of the Bush administration: he is one of the scores of corporate or industry officials, or their lobbyists and advocates, appointed to political jobs, high and low, across the executive branch.And although these they're perfectly legal,
Nearly half -- 47 percent -- of the Bush administration's 400 top-level Senate-confirmed appointees to cabinet departments came from corporations, law and lobbying firms, or business consulting, a Newsday analysis found.
That gives business and industry a much greater influence than it had in the Clinton administration -- just more than a third, or 34 percent, of President Bill Clinton's appointees came from corporate, law and lobbying, or business backgrounds.
the appointments cast in sharp relief the priorities of a presidential administration, because personnel is policy. In rolling back a wide variety of new or proposed rules, Bush appointees are achieving what they view as an important goal of eliminating burdensome regulation and freeing companies to grow.And let's not forget the first high crie of the Bush administration:
The first congressional act signed by Bush as president was a repeal of a mandatory standard on ergonomics, which had sought to address hundreds of thousands of repetitive motion injuries a year.But just because Bush will be the first president in the existence of OSHA not to issue a single "economically significant" regulation, doesn't mean that this administration is opposed to regulation. It has issued the overtime regulation, cutting overtime for millions of American workers, and issued or modified a number of regulations weakening environmental regulations.
Organized labor and others hailed the regulation as an important safeguard for the more than half a million workers injured each year, creating $9 billion in benefits at a cost of $4.5 billion. Industry groups complained the regulation would cost business more than $100 billion for questionable results.
The articles main example is OSHA's failure to act on reactive hazards in the chemical industry. The CSB issued its recommendation to OSHA over two years ago after a series of chemcial reactive hazards that had killed numbers of workers. Last January the CSB called OSHA's inaction "unacceptable."
The CSB was created in 1990 in an effort to prevent catastrophes like the Bhopal chemical disaster in India twenty years ago where thousands died in the cloud of a chemical release.
One of the tragedies that stimulated the CSB's action was an explosion caused by reactive chemicals that killed five workers at Napp Technologies in Lodi, NJ, in 1995. Following the explosion, a number of unions petitioned OSHA for a standard.
Eric Frumin, health and safety director for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, which represented 70 workers at the Napp plant, remains bitter about the company and the fact that workers still face dangers they shouldn't have to.Read the article. Cut it out. Pass it on to any of your co-workers who are still "undecided." Who knows, maybe the subject will come up in the nexe Presidential debate.
"These are not accidents anymore," he said. "They are predictable. We have the means technically and organizationally to control the risk of unintended chemical reactions."