As I’ve previously written, a minor revision to the form on which some U.S. employers are required to record work-related injuries remains stuck in the office of the White House’s regulatory czar. His review has now extended for 145 days.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects a sample of these forms annually to estimate national rates of work-related injuries. The change proposed by OSHA involves adding a column to the form so that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) would be distinguished from other conditions like amputations, burns, fractures, etc. After soliciting public input on the change, OSHA sent the final rule on July 14 to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review. (Whether OSHA should have sent it to OIRA for review in the first place is another matter.)
Even before the Obama Adminstration took office, worker safety advocates told the President’s transition team that capturing data on work-related musculoskeletal disorders was a top priority. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, a membership organization representing 1.3 million grocery, retail and meatpacking plant workers, told the Obama Transition Team:
“MSD are the number one injury among workers in the retail food and food manufacturing industries. The Bush administration has ignored this continuing epidemic. Data will need to improve through reinstatement of the MSD column on the OSHA 300 logs.”
The reason this revision is needed at all goes back to the early months of the GW Bush Administration. Powerful economic interests working with Republican Members of Congress killed in March 2001 an OSHA regulation to address workplace hazards that lead to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The injury prevention rule had been in the works for at least a decade. That same year, a special column to record musculoskeletal disorders was eliminated from the OSHA injury log. The GW Bush Administration’s entire rulemaking process in 2001 to eliminate the MSD column on the OSHA 300 log took, including centralized review by OIRA, took about 100 days. So far, the Obama Administration’s centralized review by OIRA of this simple revision to restore the MSD column on the OSHA 300 log has already taken 145 days.
OIRA’s performance reviewing this simple revision to OSHA’s injury surveillance system does not bode well for OSHA chief David Michaels’ plans to propose vigorous new worker protection standards. I’m happy to be proven wrong.