New report: Worker injuries and deaths mount; OSHA is hamstrung

"OSHA rules"We’re sure you’ve heard the Big Business hype about how the regulatory process is out of control. Well, as we’ve shown before, that’s nonsense. Here’s more evidence to prove it: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has produced regulations in the past decade at a far slower rate than ever before, according to a new report Public Citizen is releasing today.

The agency’s inaction on these safeguards have a high cost: More than 100,000 serious injuries, more than 10,000 cases of illness and hundreds of fatalities could have been prevented had the protections not been delayed.

We released the report as the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, part of the Education and the Workforce Committee, holds a hearing on a proposal that would further thwart OSHA’s rulemaking abilities. Yeah, that’s just what we need (that was sarcasm).

Here are some more eye-popping facts:

  • Since 2001, OSHA has produced just one new health or safety standard every 2.5 years;
  • Individual OSHA regulations have been delayed for as long as 31 years; and
  • OSHA has regulated only two chemicals since 1997; industry, meanwhile, develops two new chemicals every day.

Says Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen and author of the report,

The requirements on OSHA have nearly paralyzed the agency. As a result, OSHA cannot adequately protect workers from toxic chemicals, heat stress, repetitive use injuries, workplace violence and many other occupational dangers. Inadequate regulation imposes tremendous costs on workers, who may be forced to pay with their health or even their lives.

Who has hamstrung this agency? There are several culprits: presidential administrations, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

We’re not the only ones to dig behind the Big Business rhetoric to show how baseless it is. Remapping Debate today issued its second piece in a series examining regulatory failures, this time focusing on workplace safety and OSHA. It found that hazards, both old and new, continue to harm workers and undermine the clear goal of the law that created OSHA, which is to protect workers. Several recurrent issues jumped out to Remapping Debate: under-funding, under-staffing, under-enforcement, lax penalties and a tortured process under which it routinely takes several years to promulgate regulations on a vast array of workplace hazards.

So how does this fit in with all the talk you’ve been hearing coming out of Washington, D.C., about regulations?

It’s more proof that the real motive behind the Big Push by Big Business to gut our system of safeguards is to give corporations carte blanche to do what they want to do without anyone ensuring that they don’t kill or injure innocent people. Remember: Corporations first and foremost care about their bottom line — not the asthma you get from breathing polluted air from smokestacks, not the broken arm you sustain when you fall off the faulty ladder, not the days you spend in the hospital when you eat tainted food, not the laborer who falls into the vat of grain and suffocates. Not their problem.

That’s why we need to ensure that the system of protections we have — known as the regulatory system – stays intact. Learn more about the attack and what Public Citizen and other groups are doing to repel it. Then tell your member of Congress that you don’t want corporations to regulate themselves.