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Key Senate HELP Committee Hearing Highlights Problem of Delayed OSHA Rules and the Impacts on American Workers’ Health and Safety

April 19, 2012 

Key Senate HELP Committee Hearing Highlights Problem of Delayed OSHA Rules and the Impacts on American Workers’ Health and Safety

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Deputy Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: Today at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee holds a hearing called “Time Takes Its Toll: Delays in OSHA Standard Setting and Its Impact on Worker Safety.”

Today’s Senate hearing on government foot-dragging in protecting workers showcases a dangerous problem: For many hazards, like silica and other toxic chemicals, federal standards are recklessly out of date and far too weak. The process by which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standards is complicated and slow, and as a result, it often takes more than 10 years to set new workplace safety standards.

To make matters worse, business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been attacking all new OSHA safety standards to try to block them. They also are pushing harmful “regulatory reform” legislation that would make it even more difficult, if not impossible, for OSHA and other key public protection agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new rules at all.

The White House office responsible for coordinating and reviewing all government regulations – the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – is responsible for some of these delays. In fact, OIRA has been holding up OSHA’s proposed silica rule, already long overdue, for more than a year without justification. This has prevented OSHA from pursuing any meaningful engagement with the public on the rule, whether by holding public hearings or receiving public comments. The Department of Labor’s proposals to limit hazardous child labor in agriculture, the focus of comments this morning by Public Citizen’s Dr. Sammy Almashat at a press conference at the National Press Club, similarly were delayed for nine months by the White House.

We applaud the HELP Committee for holding today’s hearing and hope that administration officials take a cue from this event. The White House should permit OSHA’s stalled proposals to move forward immediately.

For information about the importance of public protections, visit www.SensibleSafeguards.org.


Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.