Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Good News: OSHA's Job Is Done

Everyone can go home now.

There's an old story that a US Patent Office official resigned in 1889 because "everything that can he invented has been invented." Turns out the story was a myth, but some myths die hard. And some myths are newly created.

The Bureau of National Affairs (subscription required) recently did a story on the effect of Newt Gingriches Contract On America on the making of OSHA regulations.

The obvious conclusion was
Since 1994, significantly fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations have been promulgated than had been in the previous decade. Whether the slowdown can be linked directly to the shift in political philosophy in the Congress, or because of a combination of factors, many OSHA observers agree that job safety and health regulations have slowed to a trickle, particularly those described as "economically significant" with an impact of $100 million or more on the economy.
The reason, according to the National Association of Manufacturer's Pat Cleary ranks right up there with the Patent Office myth:
Cleary suggested that the reason that regulations are not promulgated at a faster pace, is because so many hazards have already been addressed.

"The pace of regulations has slowed, there's no doubt about it," Cleary said. "But it was a blistering pace for a very long time. It's fair to ask, what's [left] unregulated?"

Cleary maintained that the U.S. workplace is safer than it has ever been.
Happily, the BNA sought a more expert (and accurate) opinion on the matter:
[Jordan] Barab, on the other hand, said there are numerous job safety and health issues that have yet to be dealt with by OSHA. Ergonomics issues are present despite the agency's promises to address them through guidelines. He also said there are standards incorporated by reference into rules that need to be updated as well as issues such as confined space in construction.

"You've got hours-of-work and stress-related [issues], workplace violence, and communicable diseases beyond bloodborne pathogens," Barab said. "There are plenty of hazards out there."