August 18, 2008 The Pump Handle 0Comment

Today, the Washington Post editorial page weighs in on the Department of Labor’s attempt to erect more hurdles to worker protection. (For more details on the proposed rule, see this case study or this blog post.) Like the New York Times editorial published two weeks ago, this one begins by noting that the Department has failed its duty to workers for the past 7+ years, but that it’s now going even further by writing its pro-industry stance into policy.

Here’s the Washington Post’s description of what the proposed rule would do:

A last-minute policy push is nothing new to presidential administrations, but the Labor Department’s proposal is particularly bold. The plan is an attempt by Labor’s policymakers to wrest control of the risk assessment process from scientists at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Doing so would add another layer to a byzantine regulatory process that would be difficult for future administrations to untangle. It would also undermine OSHA, an agency that already has too many procedural hurdles to clear.

The editorial also notes that problems at OSHA didn’t start with the Bush administration:

OSHA’s problems did not begin with the Bush administration. The Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that OSHA could regulate a toxin only if it posed a “significant risk” to workers’ health, a difficult standard to satisfy. The judiciary and Congress have continued to pare OSHA’s authority. And while the nation’s working population doubled from 1975 to 2006, OSHA’s workforce dropped by 240 employees, to 2,165.

The editorial ends with a call for DOL to withdraw the proposed rule. And, of course, the description of OSHA’s ongoing problems suggests that an administration that cares about workers will need to put a lot of effort into improving this agency.

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