September 29, 2008 The Pump Handle 1Comment

Despite a short 30-day comment period, dozens of interested individuals and organizations provided comments to Asst. Secretary Leon Sequeira about his proposed so-called risk assessment policy.  I’ve pulled some of my favorite excerpts for your consideration:

“The proposed rule is a parting gift from an outgoing administration to its supporters in industry and should be withdrawn.” (Public Citizen, full comments here)

“The Asst Secretary for Policy has no legal authority to issue this proposal or to finalize it.  …The authorities granted to him all involve performing economic reports and giving policy advice.  An express grant of authority is required to propose rules in the Federal Register–not catchall provisions.  Indeed the proposal does not even attempt to specify the Asst. Secretary for Policy’s authority, a violation of the Federal Records Act and Federal Register procedure.  On this grounds alone, the proposal must be withdrawn and the Director of the Federal Register notified that a document has been published without authority.” (Chuck Gordon, full comments here)

“A review of OSHA rulemaking history since 1975 reveals that never has a rule so broad in impact be rushed forward by a process permitting such narrow participation, by a process so narrow, so truncated, so opaque and without a public hearing.”  (Frank Mirer, full comments here)

“No previous OSHA or MSHA proposal affected more of our members.  And in contrast to every previous proposal, this one would seriously compromise our members’ right to safe and healthful jobs.” (Steelworkers, full comments here)

“Setting health standards is undeniably a complex process.  It is critical that OSHA and MSHA confront this difficult task as aggressive advocates for workers.  The Department should find ways to expedite and facilitate the process.” (12 U.S. Senators and 6 Representatives, full comments here)

“How can DOL possibly advertise a regulatory text that fills less than one Federal Register page as something that ‘explain[s] the agency’s existing best practices related to risk assessment in one easy-to-reference regulation’?  …It is as if DOL was offering to the Patent Office a wonderful new invention it called an ‘automobile,’ and described it only as ‘a product that contains metal, rubber and plastic, and that when built will transport passengers at speeds up to 100 mph.”  (Adam Finkel, full comments here)

“Although the preamble to the proposed rule claims it is ‘a compilation of basic principles and practices related to risk assessment,’ it is notable for its limited, and at time inaccurate, description of OSHA risk assessment practices.  …[and] represents a shallow, misinformed effort by an outgoing Administration hastily to bind a new Administration.” (Am. Assoc. for Justice, full comments here)

“The DOL has not given any convincing reason why this rule is necessary, or even stated what problem it is intended to solve.  To read the proposal, one might think that unrestrained regulators at OSHA and MSHA are recklessly promulgating questionable standards, based on poor science, in haste and without giving stakeholders a realistic opportunity to understand the proposal or submit meaningful comments.  Ironically, that is true only of the risk assessment proposal itself…” (Steelworkers, full comments here)

“The proposed risk assessment rule is unwarranted, misguided, and illegal.  …It is shameful that the Administration is now spending its last months and taxpayer money to push through and lock in place last-minute rules that would prevent the next administration from taking prompt action to protect workers.”  (AFL-CIO, full comments here)

“…as this regulation is likely to result in an annual effect on the economy in the amount of $100 million, the Department should have classified this rule as a significant action and undertaken a formal analysis of the potential costs and benefits of the proposed regulation in economic terms.” (Institute for Policy Integrity, full comments here)

“The United Mine Workers of America vehemently opposes both the procedures used to promulgate this proposed rule, and the substance of the proposed rule.  These comments address some of the matters that plague the entire rule, though we focus on several issues that are unique to MSHA rendering the proposal even more offensive and unlawful as applied to the Mine Act.” (UMWA full comments here)

“The proposed rule violates the White House’s own policy announced by Chief of Staff Josh Bolten on May 9, 2008, which states that agencies were to submit any new proposed rules by no later than June 1, 2008, with the exception of ‘extraordinary circumstances.’   No ‘extraordinary circumstances’ exist to justify DOL’s last-minute rule.” (AFSCME, full comments here) (United Auto Workers full comments here)

“The timeline for health standards is already too long.  It can take eight to ten years to promulgate a new standard.  We are still waiting for OSHA to publish notice of proposed rulemakings on hazards such as hearing conservation for construction workers, which was promised over 25 years ago.  Even when a proposal has been thrashed out by a negotiated rulemaking committee, like the cranes and derricks standard, the delays before proposals are unconscionable (over 4 years and counting for the crane rule.)  (Laborers H&S Fund of North America, full comments here)

Now for something a little different:

“Not only is this proposal well reasoned, necessary, and overdue, but the Department should be commended for its approach to implementing it.” (Chamber of Commerce, full comments here)

“The proposed policy would protect the public and all affected stakeholders from rules based rashly on junk science and from rules that some special interest may be trying to rush through the process in order to escape close examination.” (Nat. Assoc. of Home Builders, full comments here)

Many of the other comments submitted to DOL on this proposed rule are posted on the SKAPP website (here).


Celeste Monforton, MPH, DrPH is with the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) at the George Washington University School of Public Health.  She first noticed OMB’s announcement about DOL’s proposed rule on risk assessment on July 8 and wrote about it on this blog.  She testified about the proposed rule on Sept 17 before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

One thought on “Comments Galore on DOL’s Risk Rule

  1. Wow, this is a great illustration of how much strong opposition there is to the rule.

    I especially love Adam Finkel’s automobile patent application analogy!

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