Wednesday, April 29, 2015

OSHA averages eight years to issue a new rule; lacks funds, ability to enforce rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the nation's top safety watchdog, lacks the resources or ability to set and enforce rules in a timely matter, Lydia DePillis reports for The Washington Post. "A Government Accountability Office report in 2012 found that it takes nearly eight years on average to issue a new rule because of the heavy burden of documentation needed to withstand inevitable industry lawsuits. It's difficult to run many of those processes at once, with a budget that has declined significantly since 2010."

Meatpacking is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, with 28,100 reported injuries in 2013 and high rates of stress conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, DePillis writes. But OSHA says it doesn't have the resources or ability to set and enforce rules. OSHA does not specifically regulate meat processing, but "There are voluntary guidelines, and there's a blanket protection, which says that companies have a 'general duty' to protect their workers using the best available information."

OSHA has been pushed to set standards for the speed of production lines, especially after the U.S. Department of Agriculture wanted to allow poultry plants to raise speeds from 140 birds per minute to 175, a move that critics said could pose safety concerns, DePillis writes. While USDA backed down, protestors "pushed the agency to answer a petition lodged in 2013 that laid out why the problem was so dire and how OSHA could help." In March OSHA denied the petition, citing lack of resources to conduct a thorough study.

OSHA's inability to set or enforce rules is nothing new. Peg Seminario, executive director for safety and health at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, told DePillis, "When you look at the hazards OSHA has been working on, most of them have been ones that OSHA has been working on for decades. The process is so slow that there is always a huge backlog. To even take it on, they’d have to not do one of these other ones. It’s a zero-sum game." (Read more)

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