August 14, 2008 The Pump Handle 1Comment

Celeste Monforton was the first to publicize the nine-word item on the White House website that turned out to be a risk-assessment rule that would make it harder for OSHA and MSHA to protect workers from hazards. (Read more about it here.) Now, Celeste has teamed up with NRDC’s Jennifer Sass and gathered 80 scientists and occupational health experts to tell Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to withdraw the rule.

Their letter, sent earlier today, cites three concerns with the proposed rule:

  • It alters the definition of a working life from 45 years to an average number of years, which would result in inadequate protection for the many workers who engage in the same trade for several decades.
  • It calls for uncertainty analysis but provides no clear guidance on how to conduct one – the same flaw that the National Research Council (NRC) panel criticized in its assessment of the OMB’s earlier Risk Assessment Bulletin. [Read about the NRC’s criticisms here]
  • It limits regulatory action to hazards associated with “clinically apparent adverse health outcomes;” this, too, was something the NRC criticized in the Risk Assessment Bulletin, noting that it ignores the reality that effects occur along a continuum.

Also, as Jennifer Sass pointed out in her blog post, “In this time of global climate change it is safe to say that glaciers melt faster than the labor department issues rules to protect worker health.” Secretary Chao should use her remaining time heading the Department of Labor to address some of the pressing workplace safety problems that she’s been neglecting – like, say, collapsing cranes – instead of proposing a deeply flawed rule that will hinder future efforts to make workplaces safe.

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