Originally published August 20 2008
Bush Administration Rushes to Change Workplace Toxin Regulations Before End of Term
by Jo Hartley
(NaturalNews) In the final months of the Bush administration, the Department of Labor is pushing through a rule that will make it harder to regulate workers' on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins. Instead of disclosing their proposal (as required) in the public notices of regulatory plans, the Labor Secretary made her plans first known on July 7 when the White House OMB wrote on its website that it was reviewing this proposal. The proposal was identified only by its title.
The contents of the proposal have not been disclosed to the public. According to an early draft obtained by the Washington Post, however, the proposal calls for re-examining methods for measuring risks posed by workplace toxins.
The new proposal would also require that extra steps be taken before new limits on chemicals in the workplace are set. This would occur because of an extra level of challenges instituted to gauge risk assessments.
The pace that these regulatory changes are being instituted is contrasted with prior reluctance in altering workplace safety rules over the entire course of the Bush administration. During this time the department has adopted only one health rule pertaining to chemicals in the workplace (and this was done under court order).
The OMB has had risk assessment on its agenda since 2006. At that time, they attempted to set new standards for overseeing how federal agencies reach their conclusions. That plan was withdrawn because the National Academy of Sciences labeled it "fatally flawed" saying it lacked scientific grounding.
Several months ago, Deborah Misir, a Political Deputy with the Labor's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, worked with the OMB to construct a new risk-assessment rule. The usual protocol before drafting such a rule is for agency officials to consult with staff members, lawyers and other outside experts, and sometimes industry and other interested parties as well. Misir did not initially consult experts according to sources, however.
In spring 2007 the department was listing 38 potential workplace-safety regulations as works in progress. Included in these priorities were a proposal to reduce deaths and injuries from cranes and derricks, a proposal to reduce illnesses from silica, and a proposal to change the regulation of beryllium (a light metal that can harm the lungs of dental and metal workers).
Almost overnight, however, tackling the risk-assessment process became the agency's top priority as far as workplace regulations. The July submission of the proposal broke a deadline that was set by White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten. Even so, the OMB agreed to work on the proposal. The July 7 post on the website surprised people both inside and outside the agency who had been aware of the events.
The concern, obviously, is that this secrecy is an attempt change job safety and health laws as well as reduce required workplace protections. Adding this rule would create another barrier for safety standards and effectively guarantee that future worker safety regulations are prevented.
Department policy prevents discussion of the details of a draft rule until it is reviewed by the OMB. The public will have 30 days to analyze the draft after it is published.
About the authorJo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
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