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Is OSHA taking too long to enact work safety rules?

In workers' compensation defense news, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing last week to voice their concerns over the considerable delays in the adoption of work safety rules by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Here, the Senate committee was responding to a recent eye-opening report by the Government Accountability Office, which determined that OSHA took an average of almost eight years to implement new safety regulations.

The GAO report also found that OSHA has implemented only 11 new safety rules since 2000, as compared with 47 during the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, auditors determined that at least 25 percent of the safety rules approved by OSHA since 1981 took over a decade to implement, and that the agency lags far behind other federal agencies (the Transportation Department, Environmental Protection Agency, etc.) in terms of efficiency.

According to OSHA officials, the delays in the adoption of work safety rules can be largely attributed to onerous procedural requirements, external pressure from business/industrial groups, a higher standard of judicial review and constantly changing priorities.

"We have created barriers based on false alarms, and the need now is to lower them so that worker protection can proceed again without delay," said Michael Silverstein, former director of the OSHA program in Washington state at the committee hearing. "It is no exaggeration to say that lives are at stake."

Committee members were understandably outraged by the findings, saying that these delays more than likely contributed to work injuries and, even worse, fatalities.

"It is simply unconscionable that workers must suffer while an OSHA rule is mired in bureaucracy," said committee chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

One possible solution advanced by the GAO report is for OSHA to join forces with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) more frequently or for Congress to consider amending the standard of review for OSHA safety regulations.

Stay tuned for further updates in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


Insurance Journal, "OSHA hit for taking too long to adopt workplace safety rules," Sam Hananel, April 23, 2012

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