Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bush's OSHA Standards: A Net Negative

"I've seen what works and doesn't work on the shop floor," says Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA (presumably with a straight face) to explain why, as Washington Post columnist Cindy Skrzycki headlines, "OSHA Withdraws More Rules Than It Makes."

As I've written here over and over (and over and over) again, OSHA has pretty much gone out of the rulemaking business, preferring the softer approach of voluntary programs. And it's working, boasts Henshaw:
the approach has resulted in safer workplaces with fewer fatalities, injuries and illnesses -- what he calls the triple bottom line. "I've seen what works and doesn't work on the shop floor," said Henshaw, reflecting his own career as a safety and health professional at chemical companies, Monsanto Co. and Astaris LLC, before he came to the safety agency.
Sorry John, but you don't really see "what works and doesn't work on the shop floor" unless you actually work on the shop floor. Visiting doesn't count.

And as AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminnario notes: "Setting and enforcing standards is part of their mission. 'So why aren't they?'"

Good question.

Reviewing the recent OMB Watch report that called OSHA the "black hole of government," Skrzycki reviews how
Since fall 2000, the agency has not been regulating in the traditional sense, OMB Watch found in a series of reviews. Twenty-four rules that were in some stage of development on OSHA's agenda were withdrawn by the administration. Nine rules were completed, but none were major and several were related to recordkeeping.
And let's not forget the first major action of the Bush administration -- repeal of the ergonomics standard.

Of course, industry hacks aren't even satisfied with this sorry record on standards because OSHA has the gall to actually cite employers for ergonomic hazards under the General Duty Clause:
Randel Johnson, vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits for the Chamber [of Commerce], called the trend troubling. "The agency has aggressively pursued ergonomics citations . . . demanding abatement measures that sound much like the repealed regulation and micromanaging targeted employers with a laundry list of requirements. Despite what the unions may allege, our life with OSHA has been no rose garden."
What's got Johnson so upset? "Since Congress killed the ergo rule two years ago, OSHA has opened cases against seven companies for ergonomic-related violations."

Actually, I think it's more like 14 companies during the entire Bush administration, but seven companies or forteen companies -- hardly what I'd call "aggressive" for a workplace hazard that causes one-third of all work-related injuries and illnesses in the United States year after year.

Truly shocking. The gestapo must be back in town even before John Kerry gets elected.