November 30, 2007 Liz Borkowski, MPH 2Comment

It’s that time of year—time for the Secretary of Labor to issue her semi-annual regulatory agenda.   Look for its publication in the Federal Register around the second week of December.

I’ll be curious to see OSHA’s timetable for action on diacetyl, the butter-flavoring agent associated with severe lung disease in exposed workers.

  • Will OSHA list diacetyl on its reg agenda?
  • Will it provide a target date for publishing a proposed rule?

   I’ll also be eager to see OSHA’s latest schedule for proposed rules to address:

  • Hearing conservation for construction workers (who are not included in OSHA’s 1983 noise-control rule)
    • Current target date: Undetermined.  Will OSHA provide a date for proposing a rule?
  • Hazards related to cranes and derricks (responsible for 80 U.S. worker deaths annually)
    • Target date was October 2007.  OSHA’s federal advisory committee on construction safety and health (ACCSH) recommended in October 2006 that the draft rule be published in order to keep the regulatory process moving forward.  What date will OSHA offer for publishing the proposal?
  •  Diseases related to exposure to respirable crystalline silica
    • Target date to complete peer review of risk assessment: September 2007.   Asst. Secretary Foulke missed that deadline; will he give us a new one for early 2008?
    • The SBREFA report* was completed in December 2003.  Will the anti-regulatory, anti-worker forces clamour for a new SBREFA panel since the previous one was completed more than 4 years ago? 
  • Diseases related to exposure to beryllium
    • Target date to complete SBREFA report* was September 2007.   The Small Business Administration and OSHA have not yet even convened the required SBREFA panel.  I’m predicting that OSHA’s will offer a new target date of April 2008 to complete the SBREFA report.  (I further predict that OSHA won’t meet whatever target date they publish in the forthcoming reg agenda for the Beryllium SBREFA report.)

I’ll also be curious to see if OSHA revises its target dates for finalizing safety standards on:

  • Vertical tandem lifts used in longshoring and at marine terminals
    • Target date for publishing a final rule: December 2007.  Will Mr. Foulke get this rule out by June 2008–by the 3 year anniversary of the close of the rulemaking record?  
  • Hazards related to electric power transmission and generation in post-construction settings (responsible for about 50 U.S. worker deaths per year)
    • Target date for final rule: January 2008.  Let’s hope that OSHA retains this January 2008 deadline and rings in the New Year by issuing this rule to protect workers from electrocutions.   Every month of delay translates to four preventable worker deaths.

At times, I roll my eyes at OSHA’s regulatory agenda and I call it a joke.  The target dates seem meaningless because OSHA never meets the deadlines it sets for itself.  But, I must remind myself that these schedules aren’t the same as dates for cleaning out a sock drawer or rearranging the jars on the spice rack.

OSHA’s regulatory agenda (and MSHA’s too) address significant hazards that cause disabling injuries, illnesses and deaths among tens of thousands of U.S. workers.  The exercise of preparing the agenda must be more than just changing the dates for new supposed deadlines.  Every delay in months (and then usually years) can be calculated into actual cases of injuries, diseases and deaths that could have been prevented.  The semi-annual revisions to OSHA’s and MSHA’s regulatory agendas demonstrate an Administration’s determination and commitment to the health and safety of U.S. workers.  Target dates missed and then delayed reflect poorly on an Administration’s respect for workers’ health and lives.   



*SBREFA: Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.  This law allows the representatives of small businesses (i.e., 500 or fewer employees) to review a proposed OSHA standard (or EPA standard) before any other member of the public and to suggest changes to the rule or to the preliminary economic analysis.  The comments, recommendations and resulting changes to the pre-proposed rule are documented in the so-called SBREFA report.

2 thoughts on “OSHA’s Reg Agenda Coming Soon

  1. Celeste,

    An hypothesis: the people currently running things – perhaps more precisely, their patrons – better – to put in favorable (i.e. weak) rules now – and defend them later – or to stall as much rulemaking as possible in hopes of continuing dilatory tactics after Bush 43’s second term ends. I’m an attorney – but entirely a novice at this sort of legislative/rulemaking gaming.

    So my guess is the answer to your questions is – how are the decision makers assessing their risk(s)?

    Unfortunately, those aren’t the risks they’ve taken oaths to assess and minimize.

    Jon S.

  2. Jon,
    Great hypothesis to ponder over a beer. In reality, we can count on one hand the number of final rules issued by OSHA in the last 7 years, and it was probably just as few in the previous Administration. This kind of “gaming” of the system may have happened in the first 15 years of OSHA, but I’d probably suggest it’s not significant now because the worker H&S rulemaking system is so constipated–there really aren’t any rules in play.

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