Thursday, August 03, 2006

After More than a Year of Stalling, OSHA Publishes Suppressed Asbestos Warning

Reprinted from the August 1, 2006 NYCOSH Update on Safety and Health

Last week OSHA published a 5-page safety and health information bulletin warning auto mechanics that many brakes, clutches and gaskets contain asbestos, which can pose a serious hazard during normal repair work.

The bulletin had been ready for publication in March 2005, but the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered OSHA to shelve it, out of concern that its publication, by informing mechanics of the hazard, could result in lawsuits against auto and parts manufacturers for asbestos-related disease.

Upon learning that OMB was preventing mechanics from receiving information they could use to protect themselves, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who has for years been advocating a complete ban on asbestos in the U.S. and better protections for workers exposed to asbestos, placed a "hold" on the nomination of Stephen McMillin to be OMB deputy director. By Senate tradition, any Senator can prevent the final approval of a nominee who must be confirmed by the Senate. Once OMB released the information bulletin for publication on July 26th, Murray released her "hold" on McMillin’s nomination and he was confirmed on July 28th.

After the publication of the information bulletin, Senator Murray told NYCOSH, "It’s a bittersweet moment; sweet because the information in the bulletin can save the lives and health of thousands of mechanics. But bitter, because we should never have needed to compel OSHA to do its job. This bulletin is a matter-of-fact warning that brakes and clutches are still being made with asbestos, and workers need to protect themselves from the dust. For OMB and OSHA to suppress that information is inexcusable. This is just the latest example of why we need to ban asbestos in America once and for all."

The safety and health information bulletin "Asbestos-Automotive Brake and Clutch Repair Work" is available at